1) Read the opening text or prologue, if any;
2) Read the room description of the first room;
3) Examine items mentioned in that room description;
4) Take inventory.
It's up to me to provide information within that amount of time to tip
the player off, at least a little, about what he is doing and why:
provide a long-term purpose, and (if it is different) a short-term
goal for this part of the game. I will then expect the player also to
5) Take anything not ostentatiously immovable;
6) Open anything closed;
7) Unlock anything locked;
8) Turn on anything that is turned off;
9) Enter any other accessible rooms and repeat steps 2-8.
But if I've failed to provide some kind of hook by step 4, things are
probably going badly.
Of course, these standards can change depending on circumstance.
Early in my speed-IF career I wrote a game where your "mission" in the
game required you to read a note you were carrying. Many (er, like
perhaps two of the four people who ever played it) players found this
confusing, because a speed-IF, implemented in two hours or less and
meant to be played in about five minutes, typically disregards
niceties like an initial inventory.
It's also possible to override the player's careful obedient searches
by providing some incentive to immediate action. Having a rampaging
elephant enter the room will send the player out even if he hasn't
finished looking under the beds; plonking down an NPC who wants to
talk also tends to work nicely. If the player thinks there is
time-dependent story stuff to get done, he is likely to work on that
first and foremost, and only fall back on exploration when he has
gotten stuck or bored or the story isn't moving for some reason.
What this means, of course, is that to a certain extent as an author
you can then control the player, much the way Adam Cadre describes in
Dennis Jerz's "Fine Tuned": you can't know *exactly* what actions the
player will take in what order, but you know, from any stuck starting
position, what approaches are most *likely*.
Note that this only holds good on the first play, for unperverse
players. People playing a second time around and interested in seeing
how things work are more likely to poke at the scenery silently while
the NPC tries desperately to get a conversation going, say, or dawdle
in the path of the elephant.
In any case, it's useful to know that it's probably not safe to assume
that a player will examine himself unless prompted in some way;
therefore, game-critical information should probably not be stored
I can't exactly follow your logic here - you apparently don't usually X ME,
and you don't design your games under the assumption that people do. But how
does that imply that its not safe to assume that about a majority of players
(which the other thread seemed to indicate is the case)?
I would argue that assuming that players will check their inventory is about
as safe as assuming they will X ME. Checking some transcripts I left around
plus my own memory, I find that in the first five or so moves of the game, I
either do both or neither. If there seems to be something more interesting
in the room than me, I'll check it out before my own inventory; in some
games, I might never check either; to the best of my recollection I never
typed either in Galatea, nor in Best of Three, even though I played both
games multiple times. It's also a pattern with me that if I don't do either
action early on, if I'll do one later on, I'll do the other as well.
Now, I may not qualify as an unperverse player, but in general I think this
goes to show that its not really safe to assume that the player will do
anything, no matter how conventional or not it is.
I suppose this was understood as early as the "hello sailor" trick.
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
On phpzork.com, I put the inventory as a permanent display, and it was a
great help to many users.
I also keep tracks of the commands they enter and the command "diagnose",
is almost never use, and it is a useful command in Zork.
So, if your game is only meant for veteran IF players, x-me should not be a
crucial command for the completion of the game.
If you type "messages" as a command, it will pull-up a 20 random player
inputs, press "new set" to see more. This has been useful to see what the
players expect the parser to understand and the story to respond to.
Since you are running a server for the whole thing anyway, why not
make it multiplayer?
Also, how about this for a nice transcript:
> GET LEAFLET
> READ IT
How can I read a cretin?
Did Infocom create an invisible "cretin" object and set the "it"
pronoun to always refer to it, regardless of previous nouns entered or
is this a bug?
I have to say I'm not keen on the whole seeing your inventory thing at
all times - nor did I like having the location descriptions thrust
down my throat again after such innocent actions as opening the
mailbox :) Just me anyway - no flame necessary :)
In fact, I think I've really lost the point of this post altogether so
just ignore me :)
Oh, I usually *do* X ME, and I design my games under the assumption
that *some* people will and that it should be taken care of. What I
was getting at (apparently not very articulately, judging by the
responses) is that the author needs to anticipate two different sets
1) what are the actions that will be common enough that they should
have a non-default response;
2) what actions are *so* common that they can be used to convey
game-critical information to the player.
Partly this is a question of prompting -- you can get the player to do
all sorts of things if you simply suggest it carefully enough. See
all the improbable verbs in Kissing Bandit, for instance.
> does that imply that its not safe to assume that about a majority of players
> (which the other thread seemed to indicate is the case)?
> I would argue that assuming that players will check their inventory is about
> as safe as assuming they will X ME. Checking some transcripts I left around
> plus my own memory, I find that in the first five or so moves of the game, I
> either do both or neither. If there seems to be something more interesting
> in the room than me, I'll check it out before my own inventory;
Sure; that's why I put inventory lower on the list than room
description things. It seems to me that the way people play is to go,
roughly speaking, through the obvious, game-mentioned items, and then
move on to implicit things (like inventory.) X ME, which might be
considered an examination of another item that is implicitly present
(yourself), apparently doesn't get used by everyone, and therefore it
might be less safe to put game-critical info here.
Safer than using DIAGNOSE, though, clearly.
> games, I might never check either; to the best of my recollection I never
> typed either in Galatea, nor in Best of Three, even though I played both
> games multiple times.
Nor were you supposed to-- I pre-empted "standard" player behavior by
providing something else to do.
: 1) Read the opening text or prologue, if any;
: 2) Read the room description of the first room;
: 3) Examine items mentioned in that room description;
: and probably
: 4) Take inventory.
: It's up to me to provide information within that amount of time to tip
: the player off, at least a little, about what he is doing and why:
: provide a long-term purpose, and (if it is different) a short-term
: goal for this part of the game.
As another data point here, I rarely, if ever, take inventory unprompted
at the beginning of the game. I'm much more likely to >X ME, actually,
though I don't do that often, either.
I can think of at least two games where I've had to consult the
walkthrough because I didn't know I was holding something to start off
('The City' and 'CC', both from the '98 comp). In contrast, 'Anchorhead'
specifically mentioned me holding an umbrella in the opening text, so I
did do an 'I' fairly early on.
I also think it's a fairly unlikely thing for an IF newbie to do upon
encountering IF. >I and >X ME as the first commands one enters are
(potentially) learned characteristics of IF veterans.
I *do* think it's likely that a player will >I after they've picked
something up explicitly. If it doesn't matter until then that you've
given the player a ring to wear, or special head-kicking boots, that's OK.
In other words, *late*-game-critical information is fine (the ring in
Anchorhead), but early-game-critical information isn't (like your speedIF
It's also worth noting that the author can wrest the player away from your
typical 1->8 list on purpose, like in 9:05 (and as you mention further
on in this thread). Pretty much as soon as you give the player a
short-term or long-term goal (or purpose, as you say above), you can
expect that a fair percentage of your readership will start working
towards that goal as best they can, and return to the list only when
stuck, or if they feel that's how to work towards that goal.
> Since you are running a server for the whole thing anyway, why not
> make it multiplayer?
> Also, how about this for a nice transcript:
>> GET LEAFLET
>> READ IT
> How can I read a cretin?
> Did Infocom create an invisible "cretin" object and set the "it"
> pronoun to always refer to it, regardless of previous nouns entered or
> is this a bug?
I believe in Zork 1, "cretin" was a synonym for the player object, and
the printed-out name was "the cretin" instead of "yourself" in some
But it does seem to be a bug that "it" referred to the player instead
of the leaflet. Not sure where the bug came in -- I don't know what
sort of jiggerypokery phpzork resorts to.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.
When an item is in the player's possession it doesn't appear in room
descriptions (for obvious reasons). Yes, it's not much to ask the player
to do that, but the convention "if it's in your hands the game won't refer
to it unless you take inventory" is not all that intuitive. I don't mean to
say that no PC should ever start a game holding an object, but I wouldn't
make the key to solving the first puzzle involve forcing the player to take
inventory. (I guess Emily's post pretty much covered that, though.)
I think your list of "things to expect the player to do" is useful... my
list would be a little different. Someone posted about a year ago, talking
about first, second, and third-order objects. A first order object is
something that's listed as "here". A second-order object might be described
in the room description, and thus exist as a scenery object. A third-order
object is something that you only notice after you've examined (or otherwise
tried to manipulate) a second-order item.
Since the author can reasonably assume that the player has left the PC
standing in one place for a while until he/she stumbles across a relatively
well-hidden object, then the discovery of that hidden object is probably a
good trigger for a bit of action. In the case of "Fine-Tuned," I presumed
that the player would be happy about finding the last of several costume
items that the PC needs, and would be ready to drive the car. So I tried to
use a hidden object to set the pace of the game.
Friendly IF Writer
I've had enough.
"A.P. Hill" <aph...@altavista.com> wrote in message
I don't write your kind of fiction.
> First of all, don't quit your day job cause you suck.
You'd already made it clear that you're an idiot; now I can see that
you're an asshole too.
(I will not respond to you again, so don't bother trolling.)
That remark was, I thought, self-evidently tongue-in-cheek, but
apparently I lack your talent for making your meaning unmistakable.
In any case, I apologize for having appeared to condescend, and shall
trouble you no further.
Those wishing to communicate with me hereafter may do so by email.
>The recent discussion about whether players use >X ME early in a game
>has got me thinking about my own practice as an author, and how I
>expect a player to behave. It seems fair to expect the player at the
>bare minimum to:
>1) Read the opening text or prologue, if any;
>2) Read the room description of the first room;
>3) Examine items mentioned in that room description;
>4) Take inventory.
A very enlightening discussion. I realize I had been counting too
heavily on players X-me-ing and consequently totally burying vital
information for many players -- well that is supposing I ever finish a
game so it can have players.
IF is certainly full of pitfalls. I'm used to regular fiction, to
being fully in charge of parcelling out necessary information.
Deciding what to tell the reader and when is probably the biggest part
of the job. With IF, the writer has to let the players discover
important information themselves, else there is no gameplay.
Nevertheless, if there is to be a story, if players are to maintain
interest, they have to somehow be prodded to find vital information
within an appropriate time.
This for me is the most perplexing part of IF - aside from coding.
Writing IF is like trying to write a book, knowing that every reader
will read the sentences in a different order. So I think discussions
of how people actually approach play are very useful.
Web Site: <http://home.epix.net/~maywrite>
"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski
> The First thing I do is Fart in a game.
That's as may be, but please let me inform you that a newsgroup (in
particular, this newsgroup) is not a work of IF.
It's a bug in Dungeon, phpzork is no great feat, it's just a glorified pipe
to dungeon done with php.
I also made a pipe to Frotz so people could play Zork2 and 3 but it didn't
go to well with activision :)
A lot of people have requested some multiplayer features for phpzork, but I
would need to rewrite Zork for that purpose and phpzork doesn't touch the
code to dungeon
In a month or so, I will start a thread about multiplayer in IF, I have a
few ideas and some input will be appreciated then.
> First of all, don't quit your day job cause you suck. You write like
> you got all of us IF players 'figured' out like your some great
As far as I'm concerned, Emily is 'some great author'.
> 'SpeedIF Career'. LMAO. What are trying to do contain us?
> Label us and put a number of classification on me? I'm still waiting
> for a good IF game from you 'career' authors,
Galatea, Metamorphoses, Pytho's Mask, Best of Three. What have you done?
> becuase all of the game
> besides Ditch Day Drifter suck.
Speaks for itself, really.
> I commend all you 'career' authors
> getting on the e-r-t-e-r-n-e-t and doing some conversation to better
> yourself for what hopes to be a good game finally, but don't act like
> such an expert on players. Until I see you on History channel's
> Biography, get off your high horse and join the losers, you probably
> make a better writer. Go make some SockMonkeys or something.
> A.P. Hill
> Friendly IF Writer
Friendly Former Target of Random A.P.Hill Abuse
Emily, I respect whatever decision you wish to make, but I hope that the
petulance of one immature, envious whiner won't rob the whole of raif of
your wisdom, thoughtfulness, and insight for very long.
Oh... and A.P. Hill? >* plonk *<
I see I posted to the thread after you posted this -- always sending
before downloading. But, surely, you can't take this moron seriously?
I mean this is someone who is either semi-literate or thinks it clever
to appear to be. I'm not sure which is worse.
By the way A.P. I am a 'career' author if by that you mean making my
living entirely by my freelance writing. In addition to making my
living as a 'career' author, I have professional awards for stuff
from newspaper columns to novels but like everyone else on the list I
write IF for fun because -- in case you haven't noticed -- there
aren't any commercial publishers for text adventures. If there were
such publishers the professional writers of text adventures would be
mostly the people you're insulting.
So what have you done A.P.? Hurry up now, think of some way to insult
me. I need a good laugh.
First off, I'm reasonably confident that I'm merely recapping what
most great IF authors already know. ;) Second, I'm commenting
primarily on the idea of where it is and isn't safe to put a clue.
Third, I'll state that I think putting a critical hint in X ME is a
"shame on you" kind of thing to do, but missing a critical item in
inventory is more "shame on me".
Unless of course, the critical item is a refridgerator, and it's in my
inventory, and I've been walking around with no evident difficulty.
And I'm not a sixty foot tall monster. In that case, shame on YOU.
Personally, I only do something if I remember to do it -- if the
opening dialog leaves me curious as to who I am or why I'm here, I
will remember to look at myself. I nearly forgot to X ME in So Far, I
don't think I have yet to do so in Galatea. I never remembered to X
ME in Tapestry, and when I go back to Nevermore I'm going to have to
do that. Each of these games gave me a clear idea of who I was, some
joe at the opera, some joe at an exhibit, some joe in the afterlife,
or some older joe who I assumed looks exactly like the character I've
already imagined in The Raven (apparent cocaine habit
notwithstanding). Wether an opening leaves me clueless is by design
or by flaw in other games is always a factor of course -- amnesia did
used to be a popular device.
Almost every opening dialog leaves me with no idea of what I might be
holding, and so I always remember to take inventory.
I have been running on the assumption that the player will -never- do
what he's supposed to, and I always leave brief explenations
(reminding the player why he couldn't do what he wanted to, for
The problem I can envision is similar to the problem discussed with an
overly-lenient world model (that the player may start using the "move"
verb as a catch-all for push, pull, turn, etc.) The more you drop
hints, the less the player will need to actually use his brain and
solve something. There's most certainly a line to be found between
erring on the safe side of things and constructing a clever puzzle.
It seems to me that the more obvious the hints (or the more
straight-forward the puzzle), the less memorable a game could become,
and the more in danger my goal of being immortalized is. Stay with
me, I'm going somewhere with this.
I felt Tapestry rode the clue line very well, personally. It was
always reasonably apparent what one was supposed to do, and how you
would do it -- items were always where i expected them to be etc. I
never hear anyone really discuss Tapestry's puzzles though.
On the other hand, there are a large handful of earlier puzzlefest
games (*cough gharam nelson comes to mind*) which feature incredibly
difficult and sometimes underclued puzzles -- and these games are now
famous and permanently lodged into IF's collective memory.
Tack onto the pile the fact that humans generally seem to enjoy a
little abuse and you have a very peculiar formula here. This said,
I'm not quite so afraid to make difficult puzzles anymore.
I can understand getting upset because of a intelligent and pertinent post,
but getting upset at a crude post is just lowering yourself to the level of
AP Hill got got pissed about the reactions to his request for spray can and
lowered himself to the level of the people he despise, and if people pissed
about his posts lower themselves to react also, it continues a downward
I don't think there are many bad people, mostly young and susceptible
people, show the example by continuing to post intelligently, ignore the
barks an soon they will participate positively in the debate.
> > [...] It seems fair to expect the player at the
> > bare minimum to:
> First off, I'm reasonably confident that I'm merely recapping what
> most great IF authors already know. ;) Second, I'm commenting
> primarily on the idea of where it is and isn't safe to put a clue.
> Third, I'll state that I think putting a critical hint in X ME is a
> "shame on you" kind of thing to do, but missing a critical item in
> inventory is more "shame on me".
As some others have pointed out, when it's critical to have looked at
your inventory is the key. I'm not going to depend on the player
either to X ME or TAKE INVENTORY in the first several moves of a
game. However, as soon as I've presented them an item to pick up the
likelihood of a player taking inventory goes up noticeably; after that
point I'm willing to bet on a player having looked to see what they're
carrying. If I'm really wanting to be clever, I can probably come up
with room text or events that encourage the player to take inventory
early, further driving up that percentage.
There is no such traditional built-in action like GET that makes X ME
a likely next move. In that case, if I'm going to put necessary
information in the player description I'll find a way to clue the
player that X ME would be a good idea. Players are remarkably open to
these suggestions, and I've seen some games which make good use of
them to clue commands which otherwise would have been terribly
> Personally, I only do something if I remember to do it -- if the
> opening dialog leaves me curious as to who I am or why I'm here, I
> will remember to look at myself.
I think this is the key, and ties into what I was saying about
suggesting that such a command is useful.
> I felt Tapestry rode the clue line very well, personally. It was
> always reasonably apparent what one was supposed to do, and how you
> would do it -- items were always where i expected them to be etc. I
> never hear anyone really discuss Tapestry's puzzles though.
> On the other hand, there are a large handful of earlier puzzlefest
> games (*cough gharam nelson comes to mind*) which feature incredibly
> difficult and sometimes underclued puzzles -- and these games are now
> famous and permanently lodged into IF's collective memory.
There are also a large handful of more recent non-puzzlefest games
which are now famous and lodged in the community's collective
memory. I've seen some recent puzzle-heavy games which I consider to
be as entertaining as the older, more famous ones, yet they've failed
to garner the following of the older games.
This is not meant to discourage puzzle-heavy games. It's meant to
point out that your data may not support the supposition you draw from
it; namely, that puzzle-heavy games will be more remembered than
Duke University, Physics Dept
Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.
I don't know if I'm just everybody else
When I think "well, now what?"
I x myself
I might be The Hulk
Would have read that in the intro
Oh no, oh no, oh no
You're the dwarf who better start pick-axing
You're the gnome who chips the gems so fine
I'm the illithid who finds such work quite taxing
I want to make you mine
I close my eyes
Unaware that I had three
And so I must die
The third would not have ignored key
Any fool should read--
I was supposed to adore you
As a mutant ibex
Could have climbed sheer rocks for you
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade--
Well everybody loves one--
I x myself
An i for parts lacking?
Would have read that in the intro
Oh no, oh no, oh no
J. D. Vinyl
Idiots seem to be out in force this week. I blame it on the NY Times
printing that gawdawful piece of ignorant Oxfordian crap last Sunday.
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
Et ille respondens ait: tu dicis.
Not you I suppose.
At least have the guts to use your real e-mail address, kiddie.
Volk van San Theodoros, ik heb U begrepen.
I just read this (wanted to read the thread to find out why EMS left), and
this was absolutely hysterical. Good show!
U.N. Repressentative: So, Mr. Evil -
Dr. Evil: It's Dr. Evil, I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to
be called "mister," thank you very much.
-- "Austin Powers"
Having an NPC say something like, "Well, well, you do look rather
strange, don't you?" or something along those lines does the job
nicely in my experience.
All this sounds very reasonable to me. I rarely x me at the start of a
game, but I always inventory -- usually, for the purposes of the game,
it's more valuable to know what you have than what you look like. Not
always, admittedly, but more often than not, at least in my