[MUD-Dev] Skotos Articles: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies #1, #2, #3, and a Coda [LONG]

Christopher Allen ChristopherA at skotos.net
Fri Aug 10 01:24:10 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Shannon Appelcline <mailto:ShannonA at skotos.net> has recently
completed a highly received series of online game design articles
called "Why Marrach Isn't the Movies".

The series is written in a movie script style inspired by comic book
artist Scott McCloud. I think you will enjoy them.

    #31: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part One
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_31.html
    "in which we are introduced to snoods and in which we
    learn about visualization"

    #36: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Two
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_36.html
    "in which an important duel occurs and in which we learn
    about discontinuity"

    #40: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Three
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_40.html
    "in which dreams and drama run wild and in which we learn
    about containment"

    #41: Movie Rules, Online Plots: A Coda
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_41.html
    "in which I coming clean about the things that I
     shouldn't have been doing in a movie script"

These 4 articles are part of Shannon's regular "Trials, Triumphs &
Trivialities" column at http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT.shtml --
the column offers advice on how to build online prose games. It uses
as its examples the Skotos flagship games, and thus offers a unique
behind-the-scenes look at Skotos' games. The column is part of Skotos
Articles section at http://www.skotos.net/articles/ along with other
columns like Jessica Mulligan's "Biting the Hand" and Travis Casey's
"Building Stories, Telling Worlds".

-- Christopher Allen

------------------------------------------------------------------------
.. Christopher Allen                                 Skotos Tech Inc. ..
..                           1512 Walnut St., Berkeley, CA 94709-1513 ..
.. <http://www.Skotos.net>               o510/647-2760  f510/647-2761 ..

===========

Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT.shtml

#31: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part One
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_31.html

by Shannon Appelcline
(c)2001 Skotos Tech Inc.


FADE IN:

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - DAY

A cold, wintry mountaintop, upon which rises the ancient Castle
Marrach. Turrets rise up to the sky obscuring the clouds. Smoke
belches forth from the chimneys, but other than that the Castle seems
oddly empty. SUPERIMPOSE: APRIL 26, 2001.

A drawbridge marks the entrance to the Castle, but the drawbridge is
currently up, its solid wooden planks blocking the Castle's gate.

In front of the Castle's gate, stand a MOTLEY CROWD OF CASTLE
DWELLERS. There are dozens of them representing the entire hierarchy
of the Castle, from the rank-and-file servants wearing plain homespun
tunics and pants to the royalty who are attired in the finest damask,
satin, and silk.

Standing a number of yards in front of the Castle Dwellers is SHANNON,
a man in his late 20s, casually, perhaps sloppily, dressed. He looks a
bit nervous.  A LOUD RUMBLE comes from the Castle dwellers, as they
gossip, argue, threaten, and politick.

                         SHANNON
                 (shouting at the crowd)
           Excuse me! Excuse me! We're trying to
           film a column here!

Shannon clears his throat a few more times and the loud rumble slowly
quiets. It's more of a DULL RUMBLE now.

                         SHANNON
                 (turning forward and
                 shaking his head)
           Sorry about that folks. I've got my
           friends all gathered here to help
           make a point toward the end of the
           column, but they're a little
           impatient about the wait--

A PIMPLY LAD in the crowd becomes agitated and begins shouting.

                         PIMPLY LAD
           A sword! I want a sword! Where can I
           get a sword?

                         SHANNON
           And as it turns out I probably
           shouldn't have invited ...
           everyone ...

Shannon glances back at the crowd and nods in approval as a crack
squad of WINTER WATCHMEN leap upon the Pimply Lad, knocking him to the
ground. In seconds they're all lost amidst the crowd.

The DULL RUMBLING increases in volume.

                         SHANNON
                 (speaking louder)
           Anyway, I talked about movie plots a
           couple of months ago and I plan to
           talk about movie characters at some
           point in the future, but in between I
           thought it might be nice to take a
           break ...
                 (shouting now)
           ... and talk about how movies aren't
           like Castle Marrach at all.

The Watchmen reappear at the edge of the crowd, dragging Pimply Lad
behind them. They march to the edge of one of the tall cliffs that
surround Castle Marrach, heft him up, then toss him into the ravine.

Pimply Lad bounces a few times before he's lost in the mists that
surround the slopes of Mount Arden.

SILENCE descends upon the crowd. A few of the Castle Dwellers glance
nervously at the Watchmen or at the cliff.

                         SHANNON
                 (smiling broadly)
           Much better. Now, as I was saying, I
           want to talk about how Marrach isn't
           the movies ... about the differences
           between the two mediums ... because I
           think those differences offer some
           ways to improve prose games.

The Watchmen have returned to the crowd now, where they're carefully
listening for more requests for weapons.

                         SHANNON
           There's three broad topics that I
           want to cover, and given my normal
           penchant getting to all of these will
           probably take two weeks. But, they
           are ...
                 (listing the first off
                 on the pointer finger
                 of his right hand)
           how movies are a visual medium ...
                 (then the second on his
                 middle finger)
           how movies are a discontinuous
           medium ...
                 (then the third on his
                 ring finger)
           and how movies are a contained
           medium.

Shannon stares at his fingers for a moment, confused, then closes his
hand.

                         SHANNON
           Right, and how Castle Marrach isn't.

A SOFT MURMUR has slowly begun to build around the crowd again, but
nothing like the louder ruckuses in the past.

                         SHANNON
                 (turning to address the
                 crowd)
           You guys hang around for a bit and
           I'll be back!
                 (pauses)
           You might want to practice while I'm
           gone because we're only doing one
           take.

Numerous members of the crowd nod and the entire crowd begins to sit
down on the snow, ice, and rocks fronting Castle Marrach.

INT. DINING HALL EAST - DAY

The eastern dining hall is a warm and cozy room. Benches sit by a pair
of tables. A fireplace, complete with roaring fire, takes up the
eastern half of the room.

Shannon slowly fades into the room. SUPERIMPOSE: PART I: MOVIES ARE A
VISUAL MEDIUM.

                         SHANNON
                 (surveying the room and
                 looking perturbed)
           My whole goal here was to have folks
           in the Castle help me demonstrate
           stuff this week, but--
                 (pauses)
           They're all outside practicing the--
                 (pauses again)
           Well, I won't spoil it, but they are
           practicing.

Shannon paces back and forth for a moment, then SNAPS his fingers.

                         SHANNON
           Got it! We'll just jump back in time
           a few months and then I'll have
           plenty of folks to help my
           demonstration.
                 (pauses)
           But I should probably explain what
           I'm talking about first. People tell
           me that's usually a good idea ...
           often after I've failed to do exactly
           that thing.

Shannon reaches up into the air and plucks forth a slightly battered
red notebook with a number of arcane squiggles on the cover.

Looking about, he spots one of the Dining Halls' benches, and sits
down on it before he begins leafing through the book.

                         SHANNON
                 (looking up from his
                 notebook)
           I've got written here, in my
           screenwriting class notes, that
           movies are primarily a visual medium.
           My teacher stated that you're need to
           tell a story in pictures, that you're
           doing more than just presenting
           dialogue.
                 (pauses)
           And, if you think about your favorite
           movies, you'll realize that the
           visuals were very powerful devices.

Shannon looks thoughtful for a second, offering viewers the clichéd
clue that they're about to be bombarded with visuals from his mind's
eye.

EXT. SPACE - LONG, LONG AGO

A space station the size of a small moon sits amidst blackness.

A single tiny fighter breaks free of the station just as explosions
begin to wash across the station's face. In seconds it blossoms into a
huge fireball.

EXT. A PLAYGROUND - THE NEAR FUTURE

A muscular woman stares through a chain link fence at children in a
playground. They're enjoying themselves, totally oblivious of what's
about to come. The woman clutches the fence with her hands as a
mushroom cloud blooms in the distance.

Fire begins to wash over everything. The woman's hair streams behind
her for a moment, then the flesh begins to strip from her face.

INT. SCHOOL STAIRWELL - LAST YEAR

A young boy looks up a stairwell and sees three pilgrims hanging from
nooses. They are grotesquely dead.

INT. DINING HALL EAST - DAY

Shannon's eyes are slowly focusing, offering a clichéd signal that we
just exited his memories.

                         SHANNON
           I'm not sure exactly how those scenes
           are written, but that's how they've
           stuck in my mind.
                 (pauses)
           The point is that movies are a very
           visual medium while a prose game like
           Marrach isn't. And as we're going to
           see in a moment that offers room for
           improvement in prose games.

Shannon hops off the bench. When he turns around his red notebook
is gone.

                         SHANNON
                 (cracking his knuckles)
           So we're going to jog back a few
           months and see how non-visual a prose
           game can be.
                 (pauses)
           Go ahead and start without me! I'm
           going to pop by the Castle gate for a
           second.

Everything begins to go fuzzy.

INT. DINING HALL EAST - A FEW MONTHS AGO

The dining hall east appears much as it did before, except there are
now a HANDFUL OF PEOPLE here. Among them are AVERON, a slightly unruly
looking man wearing a pin depicting the masks of tragedy and comedy
and OMMALE, a distinguished elderly man wearing a rosette.

                         AVERON
           The Poet's Brotherhood sucks.

                         OMMALE
           I once saw a rose that made me think,
           would such beauty exist if there was
           no one to see it?

                         AVERON
           You spit upon poets of quality and
           admit mutes into your society.

                         OMMALE
           To see or not to see, that is the
           only question.

                         AVERON
           And even though I offer poems in the
           classic styles, you look down upon
           them. Perhaps they make too much
           sense, old man?

                         OMMALE
           Once, when I sat upon the Castle's
           highest turret, I thought, what if
           the sun did not rise but for my being
           there to greet it?

Shannon slowly fades into the Dining Hall. Averon and Ommale's
argument continues at a low MURMUR.

                         SHANNON
                 (nodding at the two)
           In the movie biz, that's what they
           call "talking heads". It's a
           conversation between two people
           without action. In plays you see it a
           lot, but in movies it's a real no-no.
                 (pauses)
           And it can happen really easily in a
           prose game like Castle Marrach too.
           Fortunately Marrach has a system of
           social verbs which can help combat
           this type of thing.

Shannon sits down at a bench. Meanwhile, Averon and Ommale's argument
has grown a bit more interesting.

                         AVERON
                 (fiercely smacking the
                 fireplace)
           How can you stand in this place of
           honor and call that mute's tripe
           poetry?

                         OMMALE
                 (thoughtfully gazing at
                 the ceiling)
           When clouds cross the sky, do they
           walk or run?

                         AVERON
                 (angrily pointing at
                 Ommale)
           How can you call your own tripe
           poetry?

                         OMMALE
                 (glancing at Averon's
                 finger)
           Does guilt adhere to he who blames or
           he who is blamed?

Averon silently SCREAMS and runs out of the Dining Hall East.

                         SHANNON

           I'm sure I'm not selling you much new
           here. The social verbs and adverbs in
           Marrach are well-known and well-used.

                 (pauses)
           Whether you be StoryBuilder or
           StoryTeller, however, you should try
           and think, when might gestures
           totally replace words? It's more than
           just using the most appropriate
           evocation. You can make your
           interactions more visual and thus
           more interesting by not trying to do
           everything with words.

Shannon stands up from his bench and stretches.

A low MURMUR indicates that Ommale is now carrying on a monologue,
largely unchanged from his previous dialogue with Averon.

                         SHANNON
           But, that's only the first step. As a
           StoryBuilder you need to think about
           how to take the next step, to create
           big visualizations that will be
           memorable.
                 (pauses)
           Sherman, set the wayback machine for
           April 26, 2001.

Everything begins to go fuzzy again. This time we see some cool
swirling colors before everything fades to black.

FADE TO:

EXT. SPACE - LONG, LONG AGO

A space station blossoms into a fireball.

EXT. A PLAYGROUND - THE NEAR FUTURE

A mushroom cloud blooms in the distance.

INT. SCHOOL STAIRWELL - LAST YEAR

Three pilgrims hang from nooses.

FADE TO:

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - DAY

The crowd of Castle Dwellers is still here, all seated on the frozen
landscape.

Shannon stands in front of them, patiently waiting.

                         SHANNON
           Now, the real cool thing about a
           prose game is that if you do start
           taking advantage of visualizations
           ... your special effects budget is
           unlimited. You can do the most
           amazing things!
                 (turning to crowd)
           Hit it guys!

The Castle Dwellers to the left stand up, waving their hands above
their heads; as they begin to sit back down, the people just to
their right stand up. This pattern continues across the entire
crowd. It's The Wave!

                         SHANNON
                 (snorting and holding
                 his mouth)
           OK, OK, that probably wasn't worth
           the buildup. Sorry. Sorry.
                 (gasping for air)
           The point is you can do anything.
                 (pauses)
           To hold off the inevitable lynch
           mobs, I arranged for the following
           encore.

Shannon points to the air above Castle Marrach. Abruptly, the sun
sets, plunging the area into darkness.

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - NIGHT

A fearful MURMUR arises from the crowd.

Bursts of cerulean light begin to appear above the Castle. They're
fireworks! The bursts hang in the sky for impossibly long minutes and
spell out the name "Queen Vivienne".

Then a dragon appears, golden and beautiful. It begins to loop through
the frozen e's in the sky.

Then Castle Marrach explodes.

SCREAMS and SHOUTS arise from the crowd of Castle Dwellers, who all
begin to huddle together. One BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA's voice can be
heard above the DIN.

                         BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
           My gowns! My chemises! My beautiful
           snoods!

The Beautifully Dressed Sera begins to SOB uncontrollably. No one
moves to comfort her.

                         SHANNON
           No need for alarm folks. Just a
           demonstration. No cats or rats were
           harmed in the making of this column.

Shannon SNAPS his fingers and Castle Marrach appears again,
unscathed. But somehow the viewer knows that the Beautifully Dressed
Sera's snoods didn't make it.

The din QUIETS a little bit, but the crowd is now looking at Shannon a
bit suspiciously. The Watchmen are fingering their swords and looking
meaningfully at the nearby cliff.

                         SHANNON
                 (quickly)
           Alright everyone, thanks for your
           help in that demonstration, and why
           don't you go ahead and go home now.

Shannon SNAPS his fingers again and the whole crowd disappears with a
WHOOSH.

Shannon is now alone on Mount Arden, outside Castle Marrach. A cold
wind begins to whisper through his hair, just to add a little visual
interest to the scene.

                         SHANNON
           So remember that just by writing
           words you can create visuals as
           interesting as those in any movie ...
           your players' imaginations will fill
           in the rest.
                 (pauses)
           But, you can use a trick not
           available to the movies. You can
           appeal to the other senses too.

Shannon CLAPS his hand and a Special Dark candy bar appears. He
unwraps the candy and begins to eat it.

                         SHANNON
                 (in-between bites)
           Watching me eat this candy isn't
           really very effective, but in a prose
           game you can instead describe what it
           tastes like. Thus you can make just
           as powerful use of the other senses
           as you can sight.
                 (pauses)
           That's, uh, taste, smell, touch, and
           hearing.

Shannon nods sagely.

                         SHANNON
           Now, I seem to have gone over length
           again. My wife would say, "What a
           surprise." In fact, she just did. So
           I'm going to draw this short and
           finish up next week.
                 (pauses)
           But first I'd like to summarize and I
           think the best place for that is the
           Skotos office.

This time Shannon blinks twice.

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - DAY

Shannon's desk is covered with the typical detritus that comes with
the business world: paperwork. A laptop computer rises forlornly
amongst the papers, carbon copies, and triplicate forms.

Behind it, on the wall, is a whiteboard filled with an extremely long
todo list. Shannon gleefully erases it then picks up a black marker.

Shannon writes "Marrach isn't the movies".

                         SHANNON
           So my global point this week is that
           Marrach isn't the movies, but that
           movies do unique things which Marrach
           StoryBuilders can learn from.

Shannon writes "Movies are visual".

                         SHANNON
           And the first way in which Marrach
           and movies are different is that
           movies are very visual. But, you can
           balance that by making Marrach more
           visual too.

Shannon writes "1. Use gestures in conversations".

                         SHANNON
           By this I mean, don't just "wryly
           say", but also replace words with
           gestures whenever you can. Think of
           what you'd really do in a live
           conversation.

Shannon writes "2. Create big visualizations".

                         SHANNON
           You don't have a special effects
           budget, so don't be afraid to do big
           things.

Shannon writes "3. Use the other senses too".

                         SHANNON
           And unlike movies--ignoring the short
           smell-o-vision craze--you can appeal
           to all of the senses, not just the
           eyes.

Shannon caps his pen and puts it down with a flourish.

                         SHANNON
           That's it for now. Next week, I want
           to talk about those other two topics
           ... how movies are discontinuous and
           how they're contained.
                 (pauses)
           And I'm afraid you're going to have
           to deal with this particular style of
           writing for another week ... a movie
           script describing how Castle Marrach
           isn't a movie, that is. It ... amuses
           me.

Shannon reaches into the air and pulls out a large trade
paperback. It's labeled "Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud".

                         SHANNON
           You can blame this gentleman for the
           idea of my doing so. He's written two
           books about comic books using the
           medium of comics books to do so. The
           other one is called "Reinventing
           Comics". Both highly recommended.

Shannon tosses the book onto his desk, resulting in a small explosion
of papers.

Shannon grimaces.

                         SHANNON
                 (waving)
           I'll see you back here in seven!

                           END

==========

Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT.shtml

#36: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Two
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_36.html

by Shannon Appelcline
(c)2001 Skotos Tech Inc.


FADE IN:

                        NARRATOR (V.O.)
           Last time, on "Why Marrach Isn't the
           Movies."

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - DAY

                        SHANNON
                 (smiling broadly)

           I want to talk about how Marrach
           isn't the movies ... about the
           differences between the two mediums ...

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - DAY

                        PIMPLY LAD
           A sword! I want a sword! Where can I
           get a sword?

INT. DINING HALL EAST - DAY

                        SHANNON
                 (looking up from his
                 notebook)
           Movies are primarily a visual medium.

INT. DINING HALL EAST - A FEW MONTHS AGO

                        OMMALE
           Would such beauty exist if there was
           no one to see it?

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - DAY

                        SHANNON
           Next ... I want to talk about those
           other two topics ... how movies are
           discontinuous and how they're contained.

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - NIGHT

Castle Marrach explodes.

SCREAMS and SHOUTS arise from the crowd of Castle Dwellers, which
begins to huddle together. One BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA's voice can be
heard above the DIN.

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
           My gowns! My chemises! My beautiful
           snoods!

FADE TO:

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

Shannon's desk is piled even higher with papers, carbon copies, and
triplicate forms than before. The paperwork looms in a vaguely ominous
manner.

Behind the desk is a whiteboard which is now covered with gibberish in
six distinct primary colors. Above them all, in black is, scrawled the
phrase "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ... for
now!" Whatever that means.

SHANNON is slumped most unergonomically in an ergonomic office
chair. He is in his late 20s, sloppily dressed, and looking quite
tired. SUPERIMPOSE: MAY 31, 2001.

                        SHANNON
           The Castle is fine folks. That was
           just a hook to grab your attention.
                 (pauses)
           I can't speak for the snoods however.

Shannon sort of rolls out of his chair, then gets to his feet,
stretching as he does. Glancing at his whiteboard, he frowns.

                        SHANNON
                 (looking at the
                 whiteboard)
           I'm not sure what that means.

Shannon shrugs then erases the whiteboard and writes in big letters
"Why Marrach Isn't the Movies (Part Two)"

                        SHANNON
           I appreciate your patience folks. It's
           been a busy few weeks. But, I'm
           finally ready to continue with my
           topic of late April ... how Marrach
           isn't the Movies.
                 (pauses)
           I've got two more thing to cover and I
           want to jump straight into them: how
           movies are discontinuous and
           how movies are contained.
                 (pauses)
           And I'm afraid I've come to the
           conclusion that I'm only going to get
           to the question of discontinuities
           today ... so containment will have to
           wait

Shannon SNAPs his fingers and a movie screen descends from the
ceiling, eclipsing the white board and the words written
there. SUPERIMPOSE: PART II: MOVIES ARE A DISCONTINUOUS MEDIUM.

                        SHANNON
           So, discontinuous, what does that
           mean?
                 (pauses)
           Mainly it means that movies jump
           around without showing you what goes
           on between. You don't have to go on
           long car trips with movies
           characters, unless that's the point
           of the movie. You don't even have to
           walk with them from room to room.
                 (pauses)
           Movies jump about chronologically and
           geographically in order to give
           maximum impact to their stories.
                 (pauses)
           On the other hand in Castle Marrach
           you have to trudge all about the
           Castle and you have to wait for days
           or weeks for plots to reach conclusion.

Shannon points at the movie screen and numbers begin to pop up on the
screen: "9", 8", "7" ...

                        SHANNON
           To try and demonstrate this a little
           better, I've strung together a few
           scenes from the Castle. They show what
           life would be like if Marrach were a
           movie.

The number count on the screen continues: "2", 1". Then the screen
goes black.

FADE TO:

INT. THE LECTURE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

A crowd of people are milling about a room filled with chairs. A
DARK-HAIRED WOMAN is speaking from a lectern at the front of the room,
but no one seems to be paying her much attention.

Suddenly VICTOR bursts into the room. He's unshaven and scarred, and
thus clearly must be a bad guy.

                        VICTOR
           The Queen sucks!

Members of the milling crowd glance fearfully at each other.

                        VICTOR
           And you're all Nancy Boys!

MARTINI, a muscular, dark-haired man steps forth from the crowd.

                        MARTINI
           Uh, I don't think I am.

                        VICTOR
                 (cackling gleefully)
           Then it shall be ...
                 (he pulls out his
                 sword)
           ... a duel!

A grimace, or perhaps a shadow of fear, crosses Martini's face.

INT. PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

Martini is beating a practice dummy with his sword.

                        MARTINI
           Must ... duel ... better ...

EXT. OUTER COURTYARD - A WHILE AGO

Martini is jogging in place.

                        MARTINI
           Must ... build ... endurance ...

INT. PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

Martini is beating that dummy again; it's not clear who's getting the
better of it.

                        MARTINI
           Must ... kill ... dummy ...

EXT. GATE COURTYARD - A WHILE AGO

Martini is doing push-ups on the cold, stone cobbles.

                        MARTINI
           Must ... ask Ermingarde ... for
           mittens ...

INT. PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

The practice room is now filled with the thronging hoards of the Outer
Bailey. They are whispering, joking, and pointing, much to the
distress of SIR LAUNFAL, the uptight chamberlain, who is trying to
keep everyone in line.

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           It is clearly stated in the Queen's
           Capitulary that fidgeting during a
           sanctioned duel can be punishable by
           three days in the stockade or ...

No one's listening to him, and very soon his voice is lost amidst the
RUMBLING OF THE CROWD.

In the center of the room stand Martini and Victor. Martini has a
proper dueling blade, engraved with a quill. Victor has a huge
two-handed blade covered with rust ... or perhaps dried blood.

Victor licks his two-handed sword just to be gross.

A SNIDE WOMAN in the crowd comments to HER FRIEND.

                        SNIDE WOMAN
           He's compensating ...

Suddenly Victor lunges at Martini who just barely gets his sword up in
time. The duel has begun!

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           Ah ... Ah ... You may begin!

Swords clang! Victor has the upper hand! Then Martini! Then Victor!
Then Martini again! This is very exciting!

                        MARTINI
                 (softly)
           You shouldn't have brought my mother
           into this ...

Victor looks worried. He's losing! How could he have said anything
about Martini's mother? No one fights better than a cornered son!

Then, Victor has a sudden inspiration. He kicks Martini in the ribs!

                        MARTINI
           Agh!

Victor seizes the moment and stabs Martini through the right arm!
Martini falls to the ground!

                        VICTOR
                 (hopping up and down)
           Who's your daddy? Who's your daddy?

Victor goes dancing out the door, waving his sword over his head.

                        MARTINI
                 (sobbing silently)
           I am shamed ...

EXT. THE STAIRS IN THE GATE COURTYARD - A WHILE AGO

Victor is dancing down the stairs, still waving his sword.

                        VICTOR
                 (shouting)
           Me! Me! Me!

INT. THE PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

Martini has collapsed to the ground now, his sword fallen to the side.

                        MARTINI
                 (still sobbing)
           Shamed ...

INT. THE DINING HALL - A WHILE AGO

Victor now sits at the round table in the dining hall. He raises a mug
of beer above his head.

                        VICTOR
                 (loudly)
           To me.

His words ECHO LOUDLY. He lifts the mug to his lips and drinks the
beer down. The mug disappears in a puff of white smoke.

Victor looks at his hand, and then about the empty room, sadness on
his face.

INT. THE PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

The crowd has thronged around Martini. They are patting him on the
back, touching him on the shoulder, or just giving him the thumbs up
sign.

                        SNIDE WOMAN
                 (running her hands
                 through Martini's hair)
           You won today just by fighting,
           Marty ...

Martini looks up at Snide Woman and smiles.

FADE TO:

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

A bright light now shows on the movie screen until Shannon wiggles his
nose, making the light go out.

                        SHANNON
           Whoa .... sorry about that folks.
           That last line was worthy of Titanic.

Shannon shakes his head, then quickly gestures toward the ceiling with
his right index finger. The movie screen goes flying up into the
ceiling.

                        SHANNON
           In any case, I hope my movie helped
           to demonstrate how a discontinuous
           movie can be very different thing
           from the continuous experience of
           Castle Marrach.
                 (pauses)
           I used the discontinuities in my
           mini-movie to do a number of things.
                 (pauses)
           First, I jumped in when things got
           interesting.
                 (pauses)
           Second, I skipped over boring details
           like asking Launfal for permission to
           duel.
                 (pauses)
           Third, I increased the impact of the
           plot by placing it all at the same
           moment in time ... without breaking
           it up with lots of irrelevant stuff.

Shannon glances up at the whiteboard, almost empty now, and realizes
that it doesn't offer any help.

                        SHANNON
           In Castle Marrach, a similar plot
           took a few weeks to execute. Though
           it was a lot of fun I'd like to think
           that my tight shooting offered more
           emotional impact.
                 (pauses)
           But this doesn't help you a lot when
           you're considering plots for Castle
           Marrach because the game is by nature
           continuous. So, how can we learn from
           movies here?

Shannon strides up to the white board and erases it again.

                        SHANNON
           It won't surprise you to hear I have
           a few suggestions.

Shannon writes "Movies are discontinuous."

                        SHANNON
           And it's my belief that introducing
           some discontinuities into Castle
           Marrach can improve your plots.

Shannon writes "1. Don't be afraid to start en media res.

                        SHANNON
           We creative people come up with
           strange foreign words to hide the
           secrets of our craft. I'm probably
           violating my Masonic oath here when I
           tell you that en media res means "in
           the middle of things", more or less.
                 (pauses)
           The point is that you can start a
           plot without what went before
           actually happening. You just need to
           introduce the backstory via other
           methods.

Abruptly the white board is filled with images as a new movie starts
up. Shannon frowns a bit and looks up at the movie screen which is now
hidden up in the ceiling. Finally he shrugs his shoulders and
concentrates on the movie.

FADE TO:

INT. A MOVIE SET PORTRAYING THE PRACTICE ROOM - DAY

The room is filled with people sparring and people watching people
sparring. VICTOR stands off to the side, heckling duelists.

                        VICTOR
           You're holding that blade like a wet
           noodle!
                 (pauses)
           You're not guarding your right side!
                 (pauses)
           Your momma dresses you funny!

Suddenly, a BIG MAN bursts into the room. He's big! He's muscular!
He's the spitting image of Victor except he doesn't spit. He clean
shaven and unscarred too, proving that he must be an OK-guy. He
doesn't even sneer!

                        BIG MAN
           You won't get away with this Victor!
           I know you poisoned my love,
           Beatrice, because she fell for me,
           your twin brother, Victee, rather
           than you.
                 (pauses)
           I know you stole her precious
           Sapphire of the Fallen Snow and hid
           it away somewhere in the Castle.
                 (pauses)
           I know that a servant witnessed your
           evil deed and I shall find who they
           are.
                 (pauses)
           Who shall join me?

A loud cheer goes up, and many members of the crowd throng around
VICTEE (BIG MAN).

Victor looks non-plussed, like this happens every day.

FADE TO:

THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

Though a light is still shining on the whiteboard, the writing on the
board is visible once more.

                        SHANNON
           Right into the middle of the
           action. That's the way to go, and the
           first way to make discontinuities
           your friend.

Shannon writes on the whiteboard "2. Don't be afraid to introduce
discontinuities into the middle of the story."

                        SHANNON
           This is pretty much the same idea, so
           I'm not going to try and work up a
           clever clip.
                 (pauses)
           If you're running a plot just
           remember ... if there's going to be
           anything somewhat boring you can just
           pretend it happened, and report out
           in whatever way is appropriate ...
           just like you'd report backstory.

Shannon writes "3. Don't be bound by quaint notions of time and
space."

                        SHANNON
           This last one is tricky because you
           can really blow every one's
           suspension of disbelief if you're not
           careful. But, remember, you're gaming
           in a virtual world, and thus you're
           not bound by the rules that you'd be
           bound by in physical reality.
                 (pauses)
           You really want to keep your plots as
           tight as possible ... mainly meaning
           tight in time. And you can do some
           stuff to help that out.
                 (pauses)
           You can quickly pop from location to
           location to conduct different scenes.
                 (pauses)
           You can ignore your characters' other
           concerns for a short time to
           concentrate on your core plot.
                 (pauses)
           And, you can allow those off-screen
           discontinuities to occur very
           quickly.

Shannon glances back at the whiteboard which is growing dark once
again as new images appear there.

FADE TO:

INT. A MOVIE SET PORTRAYING LAUNFAL'S OFFICE - DAY

Bookcases adorn the walls of Sir Launfal's office and it's obvious
that everything is in perfect order. All of the books are organized by
color, then by ascending height.

Launfal's desk is equally neat. A pile of a dozen inboxes are each
partially filled with neat stacks of paper. The actual surface of
Launfal's desk is remarkably empty.

Sir Launfal sits behind his desk, his posture perfect. A BEAUTIFULLY
DRESSED SERA stands opposite Sir Launfal. She is not wearing a
snood. A COURIER leans against the doorway to the office.

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           These allegations you bring against
           Mark are most serious. I will
           investigate them.

Sir Launfal motions to the Courier who goes running out of the room.

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           Is there anything else I may do for
           you, Sera?

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
           Yes, I was wondering if I might
           get ...

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           No swords! I have no swords! You may
           not get a sword!

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
                 (gasping)
           A snood! I just wanted a snood!

She begins to cry.

Sir Launfal looks around to see if there's anyone to help. There
isn't. He brightens up when ...

The Courier runs back into the room.

The Courier whispers something in Launfal's ear. He brightens up even
more.

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           Good news, Sera.

Her cries come to a gasping halt. She looks up at Sir Launfal.

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           It appears that you are quite right,
           and that Mark is not romancing just
           one, but several other women
           currently.

The Beautifully Dressed Sera begins sobbing uncontrollably again.

The Courier shrugs his shoulders, then runs out the door.

Sir Launfal looks uncomfortable for a moment, then tries to look busy
by starting to rearrange his books.

FADE TO:

THE SKOTOS OFFICE - DAY

Shannon SNAPS his fingers one more time to turn off the light
projecting onto the whiteboard.

                        SHANNON
           There you go. A slightly unrealistic
           crunching of time lends impact to the
           scene without necessarily destroying
           suspension of disbelief.
                 (pauses)
           Just use it with care.

Shannon paces back and forth for a few seconds, looking ominously at
the piles of paper on his desk.

                        SHANNON
           And that's it for me this week
           folks. Sometime soon I'll finish this
           off by talking about how movies are
           self-contained. It's kind of a
           mirror-image to this episode because
           it also talks about how text games
           can be improved by making them less
           like real life.
                 (pauses)
           And just to tantalize you, let me
           offer the following preview: one of
           our actors from this week tries to
           jump off the parapet.

Shannon waggles his eyebrows.

                        SHANNON
           See you then!

FADE TO:

EXT. A SNOWY PARAPET - NIGHT

A shadowy figure stands on the parapet, leaning out into the
wind. SUPERIMPOSE: WILL IT BE ...

The figure's face is revealed as Martini's. SUPERIMPOSE: MARTINI?

                        MARTINI
                 (sobbing)
           My shame is as deep as this ravine.

Martini FADES OUT to be replaced by a much more shapely figure who is
revealed to be the Beautifully Dressed Sera. She too is leaning
dangerously into the wind. SUPERIMPOSE: THE BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA?

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
                 (sobbing)
           I can not go on without my snoods!

The Beautifully Dressed Sera FADES OUT to be replaced by a large,
unwieldy figure. He too is leaning out into the wind. It's Victor!
SUPERIMPOSE: OR VICTOR?

                        VICTOR
                 (belching)
           I think I dropped my beer!

Victor begins to flail his arms and fall forward, then the screen
FADES TO BLACK.


                           END

==========

Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT.shtml

#40: Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Three
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_40.html

by Shannon Appelcline
(c)2001 Skotos Tech Inc.


FADE IN:

                         NARRATOR (V.O.)
           Last time, on Why Marrach isn't the
           movies.

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - DAY

                        SHANNON
                 (smiling broadly)
           I want to talk about how Marrach isn't
           the movies ... about the differences
           between the two mediums ...

INT. PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

Suddenly Victor lunges at Martini who just barely gets his sword up in
time. The duel has begun!

                        SIR LAUNFAL
           Ah ... Ah ... You may begin!

Swords clang! Victor has the upper hand! Then Martini! Then Victor!
Then Martini again! This is very exciting!

PUZZLE, a very pretty but poorly understood young woman, watches the
duel with her hands clutched to her breast. Her auburn-brown hair has
recently been cut cruelly short; it's obvious that she was a true
beauty when her long locks flowed down her back.

The careful viewer realizes that the column author is officially
cheating, introducing new footage that wasn't actually seen last time.

The sounds of the duel fade into the background. There's lots of
GRUNTING and CURSING and a few "Sorry about that's and "Excuse em's
coming from the two duelists.

                        PUZZLE
                 (softly)
           Oh, woe is me, for I fear that my true
           love Martini does not even know that I
           exist. To him, I must appear a boyish
           waif.

Puzzle places the back of her hand upon her forehead and for a moment
it appears that she might faint.

Nearby stands MORTIMER, a broad-shouldered, dark-haired man cloaked
entirely in shadows. He glances at Puzzle, then Martini, and a look
that might be jealousy crosses his face.

                        MORTIMER
                 (softly in Martini's
                 direction)
           You shall not have her.

Martini glances suddenly into the shadows, as if he had heard the
words. Victor takes advantage of the distraction and kicks Martini in
the ribs!

                        MARTINI
           Agh!

Victor seizes the moment and stabs Martini through the right arm!
Martini falls to the ground!

INT. THE PRACTICE ROOM - A WHILE AGO

The crowd has thronged around Martini. They are patting him on the
back, touching him on the shoulder, or just giving him the thumbs up
sign.

                        SNIDE WOMAN
                 (running her hands
                 through Martini's hair)
           You won today just by fighting, Marty ...

Martini looks up at Snide Woman and smiles.

INT. A MOVIE SET PORTRAYING LAUNFAL'S OFFICE - DAY

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
                 (gasping)
           A snood! I just wanted a snood!

She begins to cry.

Sir Launfal looks around to see if there's anyone to help. There
isn't.

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

                        SHANNON
           And that's it for me this week
           folks. Sometime soon I'll finish this
           off by talking about how movies are
           self-contained. It's kind of a
           mirror-image to this episode because it
           also talks about how text games can be
           improved by making them less like real
           life.
                 (pauses)
           And just to tantalize you, let me offer
           the following preview: one of our
           actors from this week tries to jump off
           the parapet.

FADE TO:

EXT. THE SKOTOS PATIO - NIGHT

SHANNON is perched casually in the Skotos Hot Tub, sipping a Mimosa
and looking out at the stars clustering over the darkened San
Francisco Bay. He seems a little less disheveled than last time, and
also appears to have lost some weight. He's still tired.

The Mimosa seems to be helping though.

                        SHANNON
           Welcome back folks, for what I expect
           to be the last installment of this
           particular mini-series.

Yeah, this is all pretty decadent, but the Skotos House came with the
hot tub pre-installed. What can you do? SUPERIMPOSE: JULY 26, 2001.

                        SHANNON
           As you may recall my subject this time
           is containment. Movies are contained;
           Marrach isn't. I want to explore that.
                 (frowning momentarily)
           I suspect I'm confusing some of you
           right now because I've previously
           talked about spatial containment, and
           Marrach is definitely spatially
           contained. You can't get out!
                 (pauses)
           This time around though I'm talking
           about chronological containment ... or
           maybe plotological containment. Yeah, I
           did just make that word up. Containment
           of plot I mean.

Shannon finishes off his Mimosa and looks around sadly for a moment
before deciding that neither more Orange Juice nor more Champagne has
miraculously materialized upon the patio. He then picks up a book that
has been lying to the side of the hot tub. Its cover displays the
title The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and below that the
name "Michael Chabon".

                        SHANNON
           Berkeley author. Pulitzer Prize winner.
           Good stuff.
                 (pauses, then waves the
                 book around a bit)
           My point is that in this book here,
           just like in a movie, your story has
           three parts--beginning, middle, and
           end.
                 (pauses)
           Or as Aristotle so aptly named them:
           Act I, Act II, and Act III.
                 (pauses)
           You get meaningful change! You get
           finality! You get closure!
                 (pauses)
           At least until the sequel comes out.

Shannon tosses the book to the side of the hot tub with a lack of
respect that seems inappropriate for a Pulitzer Prize winner by a
Berkeley author. Ah well.

                        SHANNON
           Instead, in Marrach, you have ...
           continuity. Unending continuity. To
           some extent it's a real benefit of the
           medium, but it can be a weakness too.

Shannon glances across the patio at a clock on the opposite wall which
reveals the time to be 10:37. Probably pm, given the darkness, but
there's always the possibility that it's the morning and nuclear
winter has set in or some such. SUPERIMPOSE: PART III: MOVIES ARE A
CONTAINED MEDIUM.

                        SHANNON
           Let's see, it's 10:37 on a Thursday. If
           I'm not grossly mistaken one of the
           Castle denizens is this very moment
           proving my point.
                 (pauses)
           Go ahead! I'll catch up!

Shannon stands up, grabs a towel, and starts drying
himself. Meanwhile, everything goes fuzzy ...

EXT. A SNOWY PARAPET - NIGHT

A shadowy figure stands on the parapet, leaning out into the wind.

The figure's face is revealed as that of the SNIDE WOMAN.

                        SNIDE WOMAN
           Ah! How could he forsake me!?

Snide Woman leans out into the wind. Then she glances around to see if
anyone's watching. No one is. She frowns and steps back from the edge
for a moment.

                        SNIDE WOMAN
                 (much louder)
           Ah! How could he forsake me!?

She pauses, then begins to lean into the wind again. She smiles when
she hears the rapid thumping of footsteps coming from the direction of
the door that leads into the Practice Room.

                        SEVERIN
                 (bursting through the
                 door)
           Anastasis! Don't do it!

ANASTASIS (SNIDE WOMAN) leans further into the wind and lets her eyes
go wide as she looks at the rocks so far below.

                        ANASTASIS
           I am ruined! The Winter Weasels speak
           such things of me! None protect my
           honor! And my love has forsaken me!

This is sad! This is melodramatic! Anastasis is really throwing
herself into the role, though not off the parapet.

Shannon slowly fades in though no one seems to notice him.

                        SHANNON
           If you're worried about the life of
           this Sera ... don't be. I'll tell you a
           secret.
                 (pauses)
           She does the same thing every Thursday
           at 10:37 pm. A half-dozen death threats
           to date, but no new bones at the base
           of Mount Arden.

Shannon looks sadly at Severin for a moment, who is speaking
entreatingly to Anastasis and seems considerably more terrified than
she.

                        SHANNON
           I found the plot a little ...
           distasteful and uncomfortable the first
           time it played out. The fifth time I
           just thought ... that's not how they do
           it in movies.
                 (pauses)
           Which is pretty much my point.
           Repetition could spoil even a good plot,
           and it's a real danger in a continuous
           game.

Severin finally stands up on the parapet next to Anastasis and manages
to drag her back onto the balcony.

                        SHANNON
                 (rolling his eyes)
           Saved again.

And then everything begins to fade away.

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

Shannon's poor little laptop has been shoved cruelly to the side,
replaced by a looming, black IBM. It looks evil.

The whiteboard is clean this time, as if Shannon had actually expected
to be filming a column today and had actually prepared ahead of time.

Shannon fades back in, once more slumping unergonomically in his
ergonomic chair. Some people just don't learn.

                        SHANNON
           So, repetition, that's the number one
           reason you don't get containment in
           Marrach.
                 (pauses)
           There's a number two reason also, which
           not surprisingly comes right after
           number one. You can lose containment in
           Marrach by opening closed plots.
                 (pauses)
           That might not make sense yet.
           Fortunately I've ... literally ...
           dreamed up a sequence to explain it.
                 (pauses)
           Before I go on I'll comment that a
           dream sequence is one of many
           techniques you see in movies but not in
           online games ... and someday I'll write
           about them. But, in the meantime, just
           enjoy the imaginings of my warped
           brain.

Shannon closes his eyes and just sits there for a moment,
frowning. Then his breathing becomes shallower and a smile spreads
across his face. He's falling asleep.

Everything goes blurry and starts to spin, like it does in movies
from the 1970s when the director is trying to show that a dream
sequence is about to begin.

FADE TO RED:

The red is slowly revealed to be a set of red curtains occluding a
stage.

INT. THE RED ROOM - DAY

The curtains pull back revealing a stage. The stage's wooden floor
is made up of two zig-zagging hues of wood.

A strange music begins to play! The BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA is
dancing upon the stage. She has grown very, very short. She has no
snood.

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
           Moor der! Moor der!

She dances off the stage.

PUZZLE sits in a corner of the stage, cutting off a long braid of hair
with a dueling sword. When done she fashions it into a circlet, kisses
it, then looks across the stage at ...

MARTINI, who is methodically peeling potatoes with a long dueling
blade. He is steadfastly looking the opposite direction from
Puzzle. There is an immense pile of peeled potatoes next to Martini.

                        PUZZLE
           Uoy evol I!

Puzzle throws her braided circlet away. It is lost in the shadows. She
turns away from Martini and tears begin to run down her cheeks.

Martini glances up at the sound of sobbing, sheathes his sword, then
creeps across the stage until he is standing just behind Puzzle.

                        MARTINI
           Lufituaeb os er'uoy!

There is no response, and Martini turns away just as Puzzle looks at
him. Then Puzzle turns back away as Martini turns around again. They
play this game for several moments.

Then, miraculously, they both turn at the same moment. Their eyes
meet! It's kismet! Or dumb luck! Or something!

                        PUZZLE
           Uoy evol I!

                        MARTINI
           Em yrram!

                        PUZZLE
           Sey!

Martini offers Puzzle a golden ring with a miniature snow globe on
it. She places it on her left ring finger.

Martini and Puzzle smile! Life is good! They're going to live happily
ever after!

Then, MORTIMER stalks out of the shadows. He's carrying Puzzle's
braid. He's looking very handsome and dangerous and all of that black
is really a turn on.

                        MORTIMER
           ElzzuP oot uoy evol I.

Strangely, Martini doesn't seem to notice. He's not paying much
attention to Puzzle at all, really, instead having returned to that
weird potato thing.

                        PUZZLE
           Em serongi initraM, kceh wa.
                 (pauses)
           Truoc s'tel!

Mortimer places the braid circlet on Puzzle's head. Then, Mortimer and
Puzzle begin to dance, Mortimer's clothes changing from black to white
and back as they do. As they dance, Puzzle's engagement ring slips off
her finger making a loud CLANGING sound.

Martini glances at the fallen ring, but soon returns to his potatoes.

                        PUZZLE
                 (to Mortimer)
           Uoy evol I!

Mortimer and Puzzle smile! Life is good! They're going to live happily
ever after!

Then Martini stands, suddenly aware of what's going on. He shakes his
finger in Mortimer's face and begins to shout.

                        MARTINI
           I shake my finger in your face! You
           stole my name! You stole my woman! I
           shall win them back!

And, as Martini begins to speak forward rather than backward, the red
room music comes to a sudden crashing halt, and the viewer begins to
realize that it's all about to start over again.

But we won't have to see it!

The curtains close.

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

Shannon slowly wakes.

                        SHANNON
                 (groggily)
           Sure, this type of thing happens in
           real life, but it doesn't have much
           place in a movie.
                 (pauses)
           After you watch your favorite romantic
           comedy, you really don't want to know
           if they're going to break up in three
           months' time, or that she's going to
           end up with dishpan hands and four
           screaming infants, or that he's going
           to start wearing a toupee and carrying
           on with a woman half his age.
                 (pauses)
           The point is, in a movie you get
           closure. Happily ever after. Plots can
           be more satisfying because you know
           they're done, that real change has
           occurred.
                 (pauses)
           But Marrach keeps on going ...

Shannon abruptly stands up, grabbing a marker and nearly lunging at
his clean whiteboard. It's like he finally sees the light at the end
of the tunnel. The end is near!

Shannon writes "Movies are contained."

                        SHANNON
           Just to reiterate, in movies you get a
           beginning, a middle, and most
           importantly an end. Plots seems more
           important because you know the changes
           are permanent.
                 (pauses)
           And not being one to just complain I'm
           going to offer some ideas for how to do
           that in Marrach too.

Shannon writes "1. Respect plot closures."

                        SHANNON
           Sure, sometimes it's fun to break up
           Puzzle and Martini after the major plot
           concluded that got them together ...
           but use this technique sparingly.
                 (pauses)
           More frequently, try and respect plot
           closure and instead introduce other
           difficulties that evolve naturally from
           the earlier plots.

Shannon blinks a few times and a number of brief images tumble by.

INT. PUZZLE'S INNER BAILEY GUEST ROOM - THE FUTURE

Puzzle is strapping a sword on and wiggling into worn leather armor.

                        PUZZLE
           I must once more don my boyish clothes
           to save Martini from the wintry hordes
           of the Ice Giant beneath Arden.

INT. THE PRACTICE ROOM - THE FUTURE

Martini is sitting on one of the tables, his face in his hands.

                        MARTINI
                 (quietly sobbing)
           I am shamed! How shall I face the
           Duelists after I was rescued by my
           wife?

INT. PUZZLE'S INNER BAILEY GUEST ROOM - THE FUTURE

Martini is backed up against the door. Puzzle is shouting at him and
waving a snood about dangerously.

                        PUZZLE
           How could you let Victor take little
           Olive? Will we ever see our adopted
           daughter again?

INT. THE SKOTOS OFFICE - NIGHT

Shannon blinks a few more times. It's probably that Mimosa. Or maybe
the fact that he forgot to cap his marker.

Shannon writes "2. Don't repeat the same plots, even if it's in
character."

                        SHANNON
           This one is pretty self evident. It's
           easy to get stuck on a single character
           trait, like Anastasis did earlier
           tonight. It might even be appropriate
           for your character to do so.
                 (pauses)
           But at least try and find different
           ways to express that same personality
           trait. Jump off the parapet one week
           and put half the Castle in danger
           another. Whatever.
                 (pauses)
           Better would be to figure out how your
           character grows each time and thus acts
           differently the next time around.
                 (pauses)
           This might not be realistic, as real
           people can take much longer to change
           ... but it's much more dramatic and
           thus makes better stories.

Shannon writes "3. Don't be afraid to break things."

                        SHANNON
           So how can you create really impressive
           closure with a plot, and make it
           obvious that your plot points are
           contained and won't be changed?
                 (pauses)
           Blow things up!

Shannon smiles wryly for a moment, then the whole scene shifts.

EXT. CASTLE MARRACH - NIGHT

Castle Marrach explodes.

SCREAMS and SHOUTS arise from the crowd of Castle Dwellers, which
begins to huddle together. One Beautifully Dressed Sera's voice can be
heard above the DIN.

                        BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED SERA
           My gowns! My chemises! My beautiful
           snoods!

Those cheaters! That's all stock footage from the first episode! But
it sure makes Shannon's last point! If you blow everything up, there's
no fear of ever going back.

Shannon slowly fades in. He looks somber, but then endings always are.

                        SHANNON
           Folks, I hope you've enjoyed this
           possibly humorous, perhaps insightful
           look at how movies and a game like
           Castle Marrach differ.
                 (pauses)
           I don't promise that I won't do it
           again!

Debris from the Castle fills the air, and some of it begins to rain
down upon the Castle Dwellers, who start to seek shelter. All of them
that is, except for the Beautifully Dressed Sera, who is too stunned
to move.

Shannon doesn't seek shelter either, but he appears to be in no
danger.

                        SHANNON
           Thanks to everyone who was a good
           sport, including Martini, Mortimer, and
           Anastasis. And especially, always,
           Puzzle.
                 (pauses, grinning)
           Oh yeah, the Beautifully Dressed Sera
           too.

Shannon looks up at the sky for a moment, his gaze lost amidst the
plummeting chaos of masonry, bricks, and other miscellenea that once
was Castle Marrach. Suddenly, something catches his eyes, and a smile
sneaks across his face.

                        SHANNON
                 (thoughtfully)
           In the end, we all get what we need ...

A single piece of debris lofts gracefully through the air, falling
straight into the Beautifully Dressed Sera's hands.

It's a perfect, unsinged snood.

                         END

===========

Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT.shtml

#41: Movie Rules, Online Plots: A Coda
http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_40.html

by Shannon Appelcline
(c)2001 Skotos Tech Inc.

August 2, 2001 - My OED defines a coda as "Music. A passage of more
or less independent character introduced after the completion of the
essential parts of a movement, so as to form a more definite and
satisfactory conclusion."

    Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part One
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_31.html
    in which we are introduced to snoods and in which we learn
    about visualization.

    Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Two
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_36.html
    in which an important duel occurs and in which we learn
    about discontinuity.

    Why Marrach Isn't the Movies, Part Three
        http://www.skotos.net/articles/TTnT_40.html
    in which dreams and drama run wild and in which we learn
    about containment.

Though I've now made all the points I wanted to make about movies and
Marrach, there's still a little bit more that I want to say about the
script format before I move on, hence this article.

You see, as I've mentioned previously in this column, I took a script
writing class back in the Spring semester. That's what led to the
whole series of Marrach movie scripts. But, as I was writing those
scripts, I had to break some of the rules that I learned in class in
order to properly address the fact that I was really writing a
*column* that was going to be *read* rather than a *story* that was
going to be *seen*.

So, this column is mostly about coming clean about the things that I
shouldn't have been doing in a movie script, just in the *horrifying*
case that anyone uses my columns as an example of what movie scripts
should be like. But, I'm also going to do my best to relate all of my
thoughts to online game design in general.

Here was my full title for this week's column: Movie Rules, Online
Plots; or **how I abused a medium to write a column, and what you can
learn from that for online plots**.


Excessive Verbosity
-------------------
The worst thing that I did in my movie columns was that I talked. And
talked. And talked. And then I talked some more. I tried to be clever
and break up my speeches with occasional actions. I even cheated and
tried to make things look less wordy by using lots of "(pauses)".

There was necessity in this, because my purpose was to write a
column, and thus to directly convey information. But, if I'd sent
that script in to Hollywood I would have gotten laughed right on the
door.

In actual movies, speeches are very short – 5 to perhaps 10 lines *in
extremis*. And there's good reason for that. You need to keep people
interested. You're not trying to convey information, but rather
emotion. Monologues are the province of plays not movies.

And this is a good lesson when writing online plots too. There might
be a temptation to script long speeches, then paste them in as you
run a prearranged plot.

    **Don't do it.**

Keep your speeches short. Don't seize the center stage and hold it,
or people will get bored.


Exciting Action!
----------------
My main point in my first column was that movies were a visual medium
and that Marrach could be enriched by offering more visualization.
This is really another way of looking at the same topic: you need to
break up speeches and discussion with action.

I really tried in my scripts. That why I used so many examples, from
Martel's duel to the romantic triangle between Martel, Morte, and
Punzel. But when I introduced my columns, and when I drew my
conclusions, things were a little more static. I wrote on
whiteboards, and that was a nice gimmick, but in all honesty it
wouldn't have carried a lot of visual impact on the big screen.

Again, this is really a reiteration of my first column, but let me
suggest: when running plots you should figure out how exciting
actions can replace or at least complement words.

You find this rule reflected in clichés all of the time. **Show Don't
Tell** is one of many "rules" drummed into every writer's head.
**Actions Speak Louder than Words** is of course familiar to every
one of us.


Short Scenes
------------
A general rule for writing movies is that you want to average one
scene for every minute of screentime. And a minute of screentime
tends to be about one page in screenplay format. Some scenes might go
as long as three pages in length while others might be just a single
image, taking up a quarter-page or so.

I think I did pretty well here in my scripts. I originally wrote them
all in a script writing program, and so I could accurately gauge
their length. I don't think anything ran over three pages, but there
were probably more three page scenes than would have been comfortable
for an actual movie.

So think about that one too when you're plotting for online games. Is
there a way that you can keep scenes short, snappy, and concise? It's
a little bit harder in an online game because there's some real cost
for collecting people together, but still the ultimate goal of
keeping scenes as short as they can be is worthwhile.


Entertaining Movies not Words
-----------------------------
Especially in my last two scripts I started introducing some
(hopefully) wry humor in my screenplay. I don't mean that I had funny
things happen, but rather that I described scenes in funny ways.

This is pretty much a total cheat, only useful if you're trying to
convince a slush reader at a movie house that you're the next Kevin
Smith or Quentin Taratino. The problem is, you see, that your clever
scene descriptions aren't ever going to be translated to the screen,
and thus will never be seen by your true audience.

I did it, of course, because my *true* audience was you readers. But
it's a bad habit.

And I can see how *that* applies to online games too. It's easy when
you're writing plots or describing characters – or whatever – to be
clever and witty in your descriptions. You just have to remember that
it doesn't mean *anything* unless your players can somehow see your
cleverness too.


The Core Rule
-------------
As I've written all of this, I've come to realize that my violations
of the "rules" of screenplays all point to the same rule for online
game designers: **You must keep your players entertained.**

Don't bore them with monologues or dialogues, and don't keep your
scenes going forever. Don't amaze yourself with your cleverness if
your players won't ever see it.

Instead, keep things fluid and exciting and *entertaining*.

Or, as the voice in the cornfield might say, "Amuse them and they
will come."

===========

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