Game Design

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fsm...@perfectmail.com

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Mar 5, 2002, 9:46:37 AM3/5/02
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Hi everyone. I was hoping to get a few opinions on some general game design
issues:

1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room, and
the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged down
with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they are
not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move around?
Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an NPC
when you need them could be a pain.

3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out the
main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While
the details make a certain amout of sense, I am afraid that it will still be
too annoying.

Thank You in Advance

Fletcher Smyth

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Matthew F Funke

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Mar 5, 2002, 11:56:34 AM3/5/02
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Subject: Re: Game Design
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<fsm...@perfectmail.com> wrote:
>Hi everyone. I was hoping to get a few opinions on some general game design
>issues:

You'll probably get a few. :) Just take mine with a grain of salt;
my game preferences are naturally shaped by opinions and desires which are
important to me, and may likely not be important to other players. It's
nice to see that you care about the players and how they like to play, but
please don't be paralyzed by any of our suggestions or druthers;
ultimately, the game is yours to make, and jas to make sense to *you*.

>1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
>office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
>the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room, and
>the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged down
>with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they are
>not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

It's always delightful for me to see things implemented in a game
that didn't *have* to be there. One of my first "modern" text adventures
was I-0, and it was wonderful to see that I *could* read the license plate
on Tracy's car, even though I didn't *have to*. I can entertain myself
for a long time by looking for the things the programmer/writer put in on
the offchance that they'd be found.
It's important to note that one of the reasons I find it so
delightful is that I appreciate the *difficulty* involved. They put in a
little extra work, and I'm grateful that they did so.
But note how disastrous this can become rather quickly. Throwing in
unnecessary detail adds complexity to the game, time to program, and so
on.
It's hard to delineate what makes an extra detail endearing and what
makes it frustrating. I suppose it has to do with the perceived
importance of the detail, which is rather difficult to arbitrate.
Let's say that I find myself in a school. The programmer has gone to
the trouble to put in twenty classrooms, and for some reason (perhaps she
has loads of free time) has bothered to put in filing cabinets,
bookshelves (with books!), chalk, erasers, globes, overhead projectors,
desks, closets, posters, and NPCs -- all of which can be interacted with
very easily.
However, the programmer has give *no* clue that the school is one
building in the game, and that all I need in the school is the green
highlighter in Karin's desk (she's a second grader in Mrs. Harrison's
class, and sits in the second desk in of the third row of desks; her desk
is a mess, though, and you'll need to search for a while to get anywhere).
That's a bit much. By necessity, some compression *has* to be
present in games... you can't expect to model things exactly and maintain
the interest of your player. Far better to only have three classrooms
with a few things to implement in each. It shouldn't be so sparse that
the *only* things to interact with that drive the plot exist in your game,
but neither should the classrooms be so involved that I'm dwarfed by the
sheer impossibility of trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Fortunately, there's a whole spectrum of possibilities between the
two extremes. I personally think it's more important that the details are
*distinctive* rather than that they are *complete*. Let's say I were to
walk into Mrs. Harrison's class and see a homework assignment half-written
on the board (interrupted by an alarm during a fire drill); observe that
her desk was tidy and tended to rock on a short leg propped up with a
coverless book (but locked); note that the paints used for art class that
day were left in riotous (and largely red) disarray; and smell that the
hamster cage was *badly* in need of cleaning, so much so that even the
hamster seemed to notice... *but* I could get the necessary item by typing
SEARCH STUDENT DESKS (once it occurred to me), in a building that had only
three classrooms (two of which were locked), that would be quite fine with
me. I'd be *much* more impressed with an attempt to create atmosphere
than a pile of busywork added in the name of realism.
In your example, would I get an impression of the person who occupied
this office by virtue of the contents of her desk? The sloppy picture of
an unknown animal scribbled in green crayon and labelled "Max" in a small
hand tacked to the wall? The leftover coffee in a mug that reads "Players
Ring Theatre 1996"? The scattered piles of Post-It notes of every
conceivable color and size? The enormous bag of M&Ms in her filing
cabinet?
Details like that would make a game much more interesting, enjoyable,
and memorable than discovering that the office building had a conference
room, frankly. If I got sufficiently drawn into the owner of the desk and
the clues to her personality lying about, I'd probably never even *notice*
the absence of a conference room.

>2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move around?
>Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an NPC
>when you need them could be a pain.

That all depends on the function of the NPC. And, of course, this
isn't an either/or question either, really. I might expect to find the
dancer *somewhere* in the dance studio.
(One game I played solved the problem of the moving NPC by having a
magic word that would bring you to the NPC's location when you spoke it.
But that's quite a bit like cheating.)
I guess it's largely a question of the NPC's function and the
frequency with which the player might need to find her. The more
necessary she is, the less she should move around.
It tends to make them a little less plastic if you have things for
them to *do* while they're in a given location. For example, I might
*always* find Sarah in her hotel room, but whenever I come in, she's doing
something different: reading, watching TV, trying to solve a crossword
puzzle in a week-old newspaper, sleeping, calling a friend on the
telephone, brushing her teeth, eating room service's latest offering,
folding an origami swan.
Sure, it makes sense to have NPCs move about. (This might also
depend on their location and the time frame involved: Jen really probably
wouldn't want to stay in the broom closet all week, especially since she's
mentioned how much she loves the beach.) But as long as you're creating
daemons for them, it can be just as interesting to have daemons for their
*activities*, not merely their *whereabouts*.
Of course, working out a good way to do this that's still consistent
with the way you want your character to be is one of the reasons that NPC
design is so blasted difficult. :)

>3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out the
>main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While
>the details make a certain amout of sense, I am afraid that it will still be
>too annoying.

That depends on the puzzle, and what the details I find later reveal.
Do the details enhance things or just serve to make the puzzle more
complicated?
Let's say Mrs. Harrison has a three-digit combination lock on her
briefcase. Figuring out the fundamental workings of the briefcase isn't
hard. But finding out that the combination is "624" because her child
died on June 24th is intriguing. Why on Earth would she seek to
commemmorate that date? Will that be important in figuring out who stole
all the basketballs from the school gym?
On the other hand, finding "624" written on a slip of paper on her
desk that isn't connected to anything isn't nearly as interesting... it
makes it much more obviously a find-key-for-locked-door puzzle. It would
get *annoying* if each digit were hidden in a different spot, and no digit
seemed to have anything to do with anything else in the world created.
I don't know if I can say much more without understanding the nature
of the puzzle you're creating a little bit better.

>Thank You in Advance

Hey, you're welcome. I hope this helps.
--
-- With Best Regards,
Matthew Funke (m...@hopper.unh.edu)

Adrian McCarthy

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Mar 5, 2002, 12:26:01 PM3/5/02
to

<fsm...@perfectmail.com> wrote in message
news:a62lod$oo4$1...@news.netmar.com...

> 1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
> office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
> the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room,
and
> the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged
down
> with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they
are
> not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

Here are a few ideas:

(1) Can you spread the puzzle around in a logical and entertaining way to
include the rooms that would otherwise be filler? For example, you expect
to
find the coffee mug on the desk, but it's not there. You suspect it might
have
been left in the coffee room. An NPC in the coffee room could tell you that
he
saw a spare mug in the conference room.

(2) Can you consolidate rooms? For example, make the conference
room also serve as the coffee room because it's a small company?

(3) Would and escort make sense in your puzzle? At my company, we're
pretty concerned about having visitors walking around unescorted. You
could limit your implementation to the reception lobby and the cubicle of
interest. Once you sign in at the lobby, an NPC could meet your there and
"walk you through the maze of corridors past the coffee room, a large
paneled
conference room, and finally to Margaret's cubicle." Perhaps the NPC could
even let you wait alone in the cubicle but intercept you in the aisle if you
try to wander off.

Aid.

Jonathan Penton

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Mar 5, 2002, 12:56:18 PM3/5/02
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<fsm...@perfectmail.com> wrote in message
news:a62lod$oo4$1...@news.netmar.com...
>
>
> Hi everyone. I was hoping to get a few opinions on some general game
design
> issues:

And subjective opinions is what you shall receive.

> 1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
> office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
> the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room,
and
> the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged
down
> with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they
are
> not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

I despise empty rooms. I am, however, absolutely fine with useless rooms, so
long as they are filled up with objects that I can examine and give your
environment depth and texture. Empty rooms seem like placeholders, to pad
out your game. Useless objects strike me as thematic development; you can
use the object descriptions to tell jokes or otherwise enhance your
atmosphere. Also, you can make points available in these extra rooms;
remember the bathroom in Anchorhead, where you could score an extra point by
taking a bath after Day 1. You can insert tiny, irrelevant quests into these
useless rooms, giving the player a feeling of accomplishment.

> 2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move
around?
> Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an
NPC
> when you need them could be a pain.

NPCs who stand still seem like wax dummies. NPCs who wander aimlessly seem
schitzophrenic. Neither solution is really acceptable. NPCs should be doing
something; figiting, in game terms, but performing some task that involves
objects (presumably irrelevant objects which you can nonetheless examine)
and endows them with a seeming life purpose, other than to talk to the PC.
Memesis, in other words.

> 3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out
the
> main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While
> the details make a certain amout of sense, I am afraid that it will still
be
> too annoying.

I don't feel that I have enough information to offer an opinion on this.

--
Jonathan Penton
http://www.unlikelystories.org

David Picton

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Mar 5, 2002, 3:16:35 PM3/5/02
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fsm...@perfectmail.com wrote in message news:<a62lod$oo4$1...@news.netmar.com>...
> Hi everyone. I was hoping to get a few opinions on some general game design
> issues:

> 1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
> office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
> the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room, and
> the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged down
> with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they are
> not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

I think you have to strike a happy medium. Too many rooms which only
contain scenery can cause frustration to the player!

On the other hand it's perfectly OK to have all those rooms if the
foyer contains a leaflet with useful background information, the
conference room has a report which makes interesting reading, and the
store room contains an item which you'll need later.

>
> 2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move around?
> Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an NPC
> when you need them could be a pain.

I think this is an area where a happy medium is the best policy.
Having most of the NPC's move around could make the game very tedious,
with the player spending too much time looking for them.

>
> 3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out the
> main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While

> the details make a certain amount of sense, I am afraid that it will still be
> too annoying.

I think that multi-component puzzles can work if the game gives the
player enough feedback. When the player has the right basic idea,
this should be made obvious. When the details haven't been sorted
out, the game should give
the player clear pointers to at least some of the problems which still
need
to be solved.

Peter Seebach

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Mar 5, 2002, 7:14:33 PM3/5/02
to
In article <a62lod$oo4$1...@news.netmar.com>, <fsm...@perfectmail.com> wrote:
>1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
>office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
>the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room, and
>the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged down
>with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they are
>not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.

I try to get a level of detail that gives the user a comfortable feeling of
wandering around, and allows me to reasonably populate an environment with
interesting stuff, without more than a handful of "interesting" objects in
each room.

So, for instance, a house might be

attic
|
start---living room----kitchen
|
basement

and wouldn't need any more complexity than that. On the other hand, if you're
doing a huge walk-in safe as one of the objects in the living room, I need to
post my map to Usenet3D, because I'm gonna have it be one of the exits off of
the living room.

>2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move around?
>Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an NPC
>when you need them could be a pain.

I think it depends on the NPC. Some will sit around, some should follow you,
and others should follow their own goals.

>3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out the
>main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While
>the details make a certain amout of sense, I am afraid that it will still be
>too annoying.

See also "babel fish puzzle". This can get annoying; the key is that, the
more often you have to *undo* something to try to fix another part, the more
annoying it is.

Okay, let's try an example. The puzzle is "open the windowscreen". You try
to open the screen, the window is in the way. You open the window, and now it
says that you can't open the screen because the latch is closed - but you have
to close the window to open the latch, before you reopen the window to open
the screen.

That's okay.

Now, imagine that, having done this, we introduce another barrier to opening
the screen - and that this barrier can only be resolved with the latch closed.
Now, the user has to close the window, close the latch, open the window,
resolve the next problem, close the window, open the latch, open the window
again, and *THEN* see if it worked.

That's getting annoying.

Much deeper than that and you're asking for a spanking.

-s
--
Copyright 2002, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
$ chmod a+x /bin/laden Please do not feed or harbor the terrorists.
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Gary Shannon

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Mar 5, 2002, 8:53:24 PM3/5/02
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"Matthew F Funke" <m...@hypatia.unh.edu> wrote in message
news:a62tc2$oj4$1...@tabloid.unh.edu...
> Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction

<snip>

> However, the programmer has give *no* clue that the school is one
> building in the game, and that all I need in the school is the green
> highlighter in Karin's desk (she's a second grader in Mrs. Harrison's
> class, and sits in the second desk in of the third row of desks; her desk
> is a mess, though, and you'll need to search for a while to get anywhere).

What I might do in such a case is to allow the player to enter unimportant
classrooms, but the rooms would not really exist as game objects. Instead
the player would get a response like:

Hallway
There is a classroom to the east.

> e

Room 222
You step into the room a look around. All the chairs have been put up
on the desks and a floor polishing machine stands unattended in the center
of the room. After poking around a bit you decide that this room is not the
one you are looking for, so you return to the hallway.

Hallway

>

Now in reality (as far as the code is concerned) there is no room 222, only
a description that simulates a room 222 when you type "e" from that hallway
location. That way you get the richness of the environment, but you also get
the irrelevant locations edited out by being automatically pushed back out
of the room. (or so it appears, even though you never entered any room to
begin with.)

--gary


Gary Shannon

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Mar 5, 2002, 9:05:21 PM3/5/02
to

<fsm...@perfectmail.com> wrote in message
news:a62lod$oo4$1...@news.netmar.com...
>
>
> Hi everyone. I was hoping to get a few opinions on some general game
design
> issues:
>
> 1) Map size: How much detail should a map have. Imagine a game with an
> office that has something important in a desk. When the player arrives at
> the office should the entry foyer, the conference room, the coffee room,
and
> the store room all be implemented? If they are the user could be bogged
down
> with location after meaningless location, but on the other hand if they
are
> not implemented it would be a sparse office indeed.
>

My solutions: (To be taken with a grain of salt, of course)

Extra rooms not directly concerned with the solving of the main quest are
available for exploration and often contain items or quests that award bonus
points. You may be able to solve the game, i.e., accomplish the priciple
quest that promotes you to the next sequel game, with 40 points earned. But
you may also be able to earn another 100 points of bonus score.

> 2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move
around?
> Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an
NPC
> when you need them could be a pain.
>

So far (one completed game and the first sequel about 1/4 coded) I've set
things up so that some of my NPC's have a mind of their own and wander
around. BUT when you have reached some critical point where you need to
deal with that NPC either that NPC will come to you, or the NPC will stay
put and you will be given a hint about where that NPC is currently waiting.

> 3) Puzzle design: I have a puzzle that even after the user figures out
the
> main idea still has a lot of details that can keep it from working. While
> the details make a certain amout of sense, I am afraid that it will still
be
> too annoying.
>

I have taken the opposite approach. My puzzles are not a sequence of
actions to be taken with a certain set of items, but rather real-world style
problems to be solved by any means you can devise. So whenever a beta
tester told me that he tried some different solution that should reasonably
have worked I implemented that solution. Now there are many different ways
to solve most of the puzzles which allows the player to excercise real
creativity and avoids forcing him to think about the problem the one and
only way I thought about it when I designed it.

--gary

> Thank You in Advance
>
> Fletcher Smyth
>
>
>
> ----- Posted via NewsOne.Net: Free (anonymous) Usenet News via the

Jim Aikin

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Mar 6, 2002, 1:11:50 AM3/6/02
to

> 2) NPC movement: Should most NPC's have daemon's to make them move around?
> Without a daemon thay could seem like wax dummies but having to find an NPC
> when you need them could be a pain.


The more realistic, the better. This doesn't mean they need to move
around, however. I like having a character in one place, but giving her
a complicated daemon that will print out one of a dozen different
messages, perhaps at random or perhaps with some sensitivity to what the
player is doing, holding, etc. Also, some of the random messages should
be empty, so the NPC doesn't do a little fidget in every single turn.

Have the NPC leave the stage when the puzzle is solved. This in itself
will make her seem more lifelike, if it's well scripted. Or, if she's in
one room and the puzzle hasn't been solved, make her "enter the room"
just after the player does. In reality, the NPC object is always in the
room, but the printout makes it appear that she's carrying on her business.

Another issue, which I noticed last night in playing <name of game
omitted to avoid insulting the guilty>, is that when the player performs
an action in the room, the NPC's reaction is always part of the action
printout. This action can be performed over and over in this particular
room because it involves adjusting some machinery, and each time the NPC
reacts exactly the same, which sucks, basically. If the player can do
anything in the room with the NPC, the NPC should have a countdown
variable with at least three levels: when var == 1, the NPC reacts
strongly, when var == 2, the NPC reacts somewhat weakly, and when var >=
3, the NPC barely reacts at all.

It's more trouble to code it this way, but I feel the results are worth it.

--Jim Aikin

Fredrik Ramsberg

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Mar 6, 2002, 3:58:49 AM3/6/02
to
Thanks heaps for the spoiler for Anchorhead. I'm currently at day one.

/Fredrik

Plugh!

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Mar 6, 2002, 4:29:36 AM3/6/02
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> punch smiling spiritualist
You strike a happy medium.

J. D. Berry

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Mar 6, 2002, 9:43:47 AM3/6/02
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pl...@subdimension.com (Plugh!) wrote in message news:<98ef019f.02030...@posting.google.com>...

# punch smiling spiritualist


You strike a happy medium.

# x spiritualist
He's a frail old man.

# g
Closer inspection reveals extremely hardened hands. No doubt
from his many earthly toils.

# cast garlic spell at spiritualist
Cast. Successful.

# x spiritualist
He's a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.


Jim

Richard Bos

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Mar 6, 2002, 9:35:14 AM3/6/02
to
ber...@earthlink.net (J. D. Berry) wrote:

> # x spiritualist
> He's a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Aaargh!

De-fe-ne-strate! De-fe-ne-strate!

That, Mr. Berry, was Ahwful <g>. Thank you very much for that.

Richard

Jonathan Penton

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Mar 6, 2002, 10:10:09 AM3/6/02
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"Fredrik Ramsberg" <f...@mail.com> wrote in message
news:ab01df60.02030...@posting.google.com...

> Thanks heaps for the spoiler for Anchorhead. I'm currently at day one.
>
> /Fredrik

Oops. Sorry about that.

Matthew F Funke

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Mar 6, 2002, 10:31:21 AM3/6/02
to
Gary Shannon <fiz...@starband.net> wrote:

>
>"Matthew F Funke" <m...@hypatia.unh.edu> wrote:
>
>> However, the programmer has give *no* clue that the school is one
>> building in the game, and that all I need in the school is the green
>> highlighter in Karin's desk (she's a second grader in Mrs. Harrison's
>> class, and sits in the second desk in of the third row of desks; her desk
>> is a mess, though, and you'll need to search for a while to get anywhere).
>
>What I might do in such a case is to allow the player to enter unimportant
>classrooms, but the rooms would not really exist as game objects. Instead
>the player would get a response like:
>
>Hallway
> There is a classroom to the east.
>
>> e
>
>Room 222
> You step into the room a look around. All the chairs have been put up
>on the desks and a floor polishing machine stands unattended in the center
>of the room. After poking around a bit you decide that this room is not the
>one you are looking for, so you return to the hallway.
>
>Hallway
>
>>
>
>Now in reality (as far as the code is concerned) there is no room 222, only
>a description that simulates a room 222 when you type "e" from that hallway
>location. That way you get the richness of the environment, but you also get
>the irrelevant locations edited out by being automatically pushed back out
>of the room. (or so it appears, even though you never entered any room to
>begin with.)

That can work, too, as long as you don't also have

> N
> E
Room 220
You step into the room and look around. All the chairs have been put up

on the desks and a floor polishing machine stands unattended in the center

of the room. ...

> N
> E
Room 219
You step into the room and look around. All the chairs have been put up

on the desks and a floor polishing machine stands unattended in the center

of the room. ...

> N
> E
Room 218
You step into the room and look around. All the chairs have been put up

on the desks and a floor polishing machine stands unattended in the center

of the room. ...

... And so forth. :)

Jon Ingold

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Mar 6, 2002, 6:16:26 PM3/6/02
to
> # x spiritualist
> He's a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Thanks, Jim, I just embarrassed myself in the uni library by falling off a
chair.

Must remember - it's cool not to like puns. It's cool not to like puns...

Jon


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