How much autopilot is "too much"?
Let's say I have a character who is in a dangerous/time-critical situation.
I don't want this:
The guard draws his gun. "Who goes there!"
> X GUARD
The guard is pointing a gun in your general direction.
You are carrying:
a uniform (worn)
a bar of soap
> X SOAP
It's labeled "Ivory"; according to the wrapper you found it in, it is 99
44/100ths percent pure; you sort of wonder about the other 56/100ths of one
> X GUN
The guard's gun is a standard model; you point, you pull the trigger, a
little flag saying "bang!" comes out.
> COUNT MONEY
Thirty-three, just like last time.
> DROP SOAP
You really don't want to do that.
I don't like the idea of the player ignoring a moving thing - but I also don't
want to kill the player 8 times while he tries to figure it out.
So... how annoying would it be for the *character* to react with some basic
common sense? Would you find it annoying, or would it be reasonably
tolerable? How frustrated would you be at a character who did something that
might not be your first choice?
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> I don't like the idea of the player ignoring a moving thing - but I also
> don't want to kill the player 8 times while he tries to figure it out.
> So... how annoying would it be for the *character* to react with some
> basic common sense? Would you find it annoying, or would it be
> reasonably tolerable? How frustrated would you be at a character who
> did something that might not be your first choice?
In my experience, making it clear that imminent death is waiting for you
will force players to focus on the matter at hand. That doesn't mean you
should kill the player after one turn. I just think that if the game
makes it obvious that the player's life is in danger and requires a speedy
response, this is enough of a prompt to the player to at least save the
game in case they flub the solution in the time alotted. However, they
should at least enough time to try out a couple different courses of
action. A secondary prompt ("I said who goes there?! Answer me or I
shoot!") wouldn't hurt.
There are probably some people who dislike timed-death puzzles, but
they've never bothered me too much, as long as they weren't too difficult.
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|| Weapons Master & Coder < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
This is an interasting question.
The question is if the players freedom is more important than the
story or the specific scene.
Personally I think it's better to "autopilot" the player rather than
to let him/her do stupid things and ruin the story (if it isn't a
In my next game I will use multi-choice menus in specific situations.
I mean, if someone is about to shoot at you, you could have three
 Draw your gun and fire back.
 Take cover.
 Give up.
In this way you don't loose the valuable tempo in the scene.
You can see a guard here.
The guard seem to be getting angrier!
The guard seem to be getting angrier!
The guard seem to be getting angrier!
The guard seems to calm down for a moment, but suddenly
attacks. Its mouth opens to reveal teeth grotesquely out of
proportion to the rest of its body, a fact you notice as those
same teeth tear your flesh into tiny pieces.
Get it? It was a DEMON daemon.
Neil Cerutti <cer...@trans-video.net>
> x guy
This is Frankie, Pamela's husband(lucky guy, eh?).
CROW: Oh, how very, very lucky.
TOM: I wish I could be like him.
The frankie appears to be getting angrier.
TOM: Why is it all funny-looking like that?
MIKE: Text that wasn't in the original game.
CROW: You're so smart!
MIKE: No, I just read the source. And...
MIKE: If the player doesn't shoot him quick it'll get ugly.
Ross Presser * rpre...@imtek.com
"Inexplicably, I was handed a six-litre milkshake container full of
almost-boiling grey bilge which smelt disconcertingly like my eleven-
year-old cat." -- Robert Hornbuckle
Ah! At last, a meeting of the minds. ;-)
Neil Cerutti <cer...@trans-video.net>
Bastards! Those players are such bastards. Always ruining
stories with their stupid actions. How many stories have been
ruined, how many brilliant authors have seen their creations
shattered by those evil players?
> In my next game I will use multi-choice menus in specific
> situations. I mean, if someone is about to shoot at you, you
> could have three options;
>  Draw your gun and fire back.
>  Take cover.
>  Give up.
> In this way you don't loose the valuable tempo in the scene.
But you loose me as a player.
I think you should consider offering only one choice at the
prompt. This way, you can ensure that the tempo of the story is
perfect. I wonder why nobody has done that before?
> But you loose me as a player.
> I think you should consider offering only one choice at the
> prompt. This way, you can ensure that the tempo of the story is
> perfect. I wonder why nobody has done that before?
But I still think that multichoice menus has it's place in special situations.
Both in conversations and in some other cases.
Whoa! AGT flashbacks...
There is a more radical way : release your game as a pdf file
describing what is going on. Then the "player" has only to read the
story, and cannot do stupid things.
Hey, I've invented the novel ! :)
I tend to find such things very annoying *unless* the game is written
in such a way that I don't notice the author shoving me into the
Some examples: if most game turns do lots of stuff anyway (if the
writing's bad, you'll lose most players early, but do it well, and it
can fly), or if it's an explicit characterization of the character
(he'll always shoot first, which is going to give the player some
trouble down the road), then it's probably going to work out. If, on
the other hand, you're just trying to force the player to type a
specific transcript, then you might as well publish the transcript,
in my opinion.
Makes sense. I'm trying to find a good balance here, so I have some idea
of how intrusive it'll be.
I mean, if you did something like
> X PHONE
You quickly call your old friend, Professor Snortz, and remind him that he
was going to lend you a time machine. He tells you he already did; looking
around, you realize the machine is already here. You set it for the year
730 and jump in.
anyone would be pretty sure something was up.
>Some examples: if most game turns do lots of stuff anyway (if the
>writing's bad, you'll lose most players early, but do it well, and it
>can fly), or if it's an explicit characterization of the character
>(he'll always shoot first, which is going to give the player some
>trouble down the road), then it's probably going to work out. If, on
>the other hand, you're just trying to force the player to type a
>specific transcript, then you might as well publish the transcript,
>in my opinion.
I'm thinking much more along the lines of characterization; making it clear
that the protagonist has certain preferences or traits which cannot simply
be ignored. Definitely *not* a transcript game; that's not so fun. (Which
isn't to say I haven't played at least one which I liked.)
The menu-based conversation system in Photopia works well.
The important thing in interfaces is consistency. If you
offered me the standard "type whatever you want" interface
through most of your game, and suddenly switch to a menu-based
one, I will not like it, unless the change in justified in the
story. A constrained environment would be a sufficient
justification: piloting a robot, being under the influence of a
spell, or being crippled somehow. Then I can understand that
you offer me a limited set of choices.
The same goes for a conversation system. If you let me ASK
people ABOUT stuff and then use a menu-based system, you better
have a good justification in terms of story and game-world.
> > But you loose me as a player.
> > I think you should consider offering only one choice at the
> > prompt. This way, you can ensure that the tempo of the story is
> > perfect. I wonder why nobody has done that before?
> But I still think that multichoice menus has it's place in special
> situations. Both in conversations and in some other cases.
I can see menus in conversation (in certain games), but I just can't see a
menu as a valid thing suddenly forced upon a player in a normal IF game.
I mean, is this situation THAT different from every other IF game? I say
that if you think the possible choices are too difficult for a player to
figure out, give them clues in the text, but a menu is just a bad idea.
It completely changes the flow of the game, in my opinion. Sure, every
game puts restrictions on what we can do; the thing is, they do a really
good job of disguising that. The game suddenly presenting me with a menu,
though, is a pretty jarring break from the illusion.
I don't want to give away too much concept, here, in case someone is
worried about that sort of thing, but one thing you might do is play
with the PC's perceptions.
Uhm...spoiler space, kind of, I guess...
If you, the author, have decided that the only thing that the PC
would consider doing is shoot the guard, then you might arrange it
so that the only objects in scope (at the appropriate time) are the
gun and the guard.
Or, rather, not "scope" in the traditional sense, but rather a
refusal to discuss anything in scope that isn't one of the two key
Any turns in which the player tries to do something else ("should")
serve to build tension, as the player has probably already figured
out what needs to be done.
Conversations have always bothered me (I hope I'm not intruding here) in
that they essentially give you a certain set of keywords and facts that
certain NPC's may react to or give you more information on--but there are
soooo many keywords and facts to try to get an automaton to respond to. See
"Deadline." I'll admit flat out that I'm no good at these straight-up
mysteries and interrogating people isn't my strong suit in real life either,
but look at Lucasarts' conversation interfaces on Monkey Island and
subsequent--talking opens new plot doors, moves the game along, and even
"wins" the game in one LA game.
I understand the aversion to a menu system or (from what I'm gathering)
anything but an "ask" or "tell" or "show" system, but if there was some way,
perhaps a *ahem* plot device to store talking points, something like a
verbal inventory. For example, in the hard-core IFer's "Homicide: Life on
the Street" game, you may get:
You are currently investigating:
The second knife
Where Bobby was
The dead transient
Where each "item" would have to be noted by the player (taken). Much like
handing A Rotting Mushroom to The Crone will remove The Rotting Mushroom
from inventory and replace it with Melting Potion, asking Bobby where he was
may remove "Where Bobby Was" from the notes and replace it (if "noted") with
This also allows to give as much or as little revelatory info as you want...
whereas an item "A Rusty Gun" may say "Looks like it needs oil" when you
examine it, "mulling" "the second knife" may say as little as "There was a
second knife used in the crime" or as much as "Bobby insists he saw one
short bald man stab the transient, but the transient was stabbed with two
different knives. Either Bobby is lying, wrong, or ignorant of the whole
Dunno. Keeps the spirit and interface (as it were) of IF but narrows a
scope of conversation in a conversation-heavy game at the user's discretion.
Plus it still leaves you the option of asking Mrs Robner where the hell the
I'll admit straight up that I've NEVER been good at IF but I find it a very
pure form of game and I love the typing... call me crazy.
that is rupe at satx dot rr dot com for you spamutrons out there.
If it's done very transparently, then fine. The only game I can recall
seeing this in was My Angel, where at the beginning if you look around
two or three times the protagonist picks up his satchel and goes down to
meet Angela. I didn't mind that kind of level, really. I probably
wouldn't like it significantly higher than that, but if it's well-
written, who knows?
> You are currently investigating:
> The second knife
> Where Bobby was
> The dead transient
AAaaahhhh!!! I LOVE this! Excellent!
I just had to share that.