design question

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timsim

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Apr 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/12/00
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In designing IF, to what level of detail should an author go? I copied the
following from actual play of a released TADS game (vers 2 I believe) that i
downloaded to compare to mine. I wanted to see if I had too little detail or
overkill. Is the following acceptable?

By the Fountain
You have come to a small clearing, walled by trees on all sides. There is
an overhang of about man-height here, below which is a white fountain fed by
the stream gurgling in from the southeast. A miniature waterfall surges over
the edge into the highest of the small basins set into the inside of the
overhang, from which it steps its way down into the fountain proper. Tiny
rivulets escape from the many depressions around the edge of the pool,
meandering a little while and then regrouping and trickling away to the
west.
A path cuts through the trees to the north.

>x path
I don't see that here.

>

Is this ok? Should every object referenced have a corresponding item within
the game code? Would a player get upset if they typed 'smell air' and got
the message 'I don't know the word 'air'?

If I am opening up old news, please forgive me. My game is close to being
finished and I'm now to the point of working on the finer details and
tweaking things.

One more question. I noticed that there were 6 playtesters listed for this
game. Is that enough? How many beta testers should an author use? I suppose
it depends on the calibre of the tester. Well, any thoughts are welcomed.
I've been away from the ng since October of last year. Had to take a break
from the comaraderie!

Thanks,
Tim

Andrea Weikert

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Apr 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/13/00
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Hi,

since you are asking...

The first time, I read your description, I had trouble imagining the
scenery.
Then I started thinking about what was irritating. When I read a
description,
I tend to put every new object that is mentioned into relation with what I
already 'see'.
Long descriptions, especially with long sentences as yours make it difficult
to
picture the scenery right away, at least for me. Another thing that came to
my mind is, that quite a bit of the description is used to describe where
exactly the stream and the fountain and the waterfall is. I don't think that
it is necessary, I even think that it stands in the way of the
impression you want to convey.
If you want to leave the details in, why not put them into the description
of the objects that represent the scenery? At least I'd like to have
something to examine, even if I know that
this isn't important to the game.
I'll try to be more specific and write what I would have done, hoping to
give you some feedback and maybe some new ideas.

>By the Fountain
> You have come to a small clearing, walled by trees on all sides. There is
>an overhang of about man-height here, below which is a white fountain fed
by
>the stream gurgling in from the southeast. A miniature waterfall surges
over
>the edge into the highest of the small basins set into the inside of the
>overhang, from which it steps its way down into the fountain proper. Tiny
>rivulets escape from the many depressions around the edge of the pool,
>meandering a little while and then regrouping and trickling away to the
>west.
> A path cuts through the trees to the north.
>

-----------------------


By the Fountain
You have come to a small clearing, walled by trees on all sides.

Beneath an overhang is a white fountain, fed by a gurgling stream. A
miniature waterfall
surges over the edge of the overhang into a small basin below, from which it
steps down into the fountain proper.


A path cuts through the trees to the north.

>x overhang
The overhang is about man-height.

>x basin (or maybe x pool)


Tiny rivulets escape from the many depressions around the edge of the pool,
meandering a little while and then regrouping and trickling away to the
west.

>x fountain
There is nothing unusual about the fountain.

>x waterfall

There is nothing unusual about the waterfall.

-------------------------

As you see, I didn't provide descriptions for everything, but at least some
of the things should be more than 'I don't see xxx here.'. In the game I'm
planning
to write (don't ask me when it'll be ready!) I'd probably even provide a
detailed description for the waterfall and the fountain.
I usually expect to be able to examine everything,but knowing that probably
no game has implemented every scenery object mentioned. For me it gives more
atmosphere to the game, makes everything more 'alive'. But I wouldn't
implement 'smell air'. Just 'smell' would give a standard answer ('you smell
nothing special') exept in a few cases, where smell is important to the
story.
Which of the objects should be described in more detail depends on the story
and on
what the player is supposed to do in that place. If I read "The overhang is
about man-height"
I start thinking, ok, maybe I can climb it. You shouldn't wory too much
about the path, since it is just used to give the player an idea of where he
can go next.

I hope this gives you some ideas for refining your game. Good luck, I'm
looking forward to playing
your game.

bye,
Andrea


timsim

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Apr 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/13/00
to
Andrea,

Thanks. I think I agree with you on the descriptions. Maybe less verbose in
room desc and add more descriptions to each item. I like that. It lets the
player explore. My game implements 'air' so that it can be referenced. It
exists in every room so why not? I still have some probs to work out (give,
getting on and off chairs, floor, etc. and I think I need another puzzle or
should say I believe another puzzle is dying to jump out at me. I just need
to get suddenly inspired. I want the tempo of play to be good and not boring
and I need more funny and neat things to do.)

I'll say this. This is the last one I'm doing. Way too time consuming.
More headache than payback for me. But I've always enjoyed playing them and
piddling at writing.


tim
Andrea Weikert <10064...@compuserve.com> wrote in message
news:8d599k$mpv$1...@ssauraac-i-1.production.compuserve.com...

nigh...@my-deja.com

unread,
Apr 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/14/00
to
In article <8d3ik7$qol$1...@news.laserlink.net>,

"timsim" <tim...@gateway.net> wrote:
> In designing IF, to what level of detail should an author go? I
copied the
> following from actual play of a released TADS game (vers 2 I believe)
that i
> downloaded to compare to mine. I wanted to see if I had too little
detail or
> overkill. Is the following acceptable?
>
> By the Fountain
> You have come to a small clearing, walled by trees on all sides.
There is
> an overhang of about man-height here, below which is a white fountain
fed by
> the stream gurgling in from the southeast. A miniature waterfall
surges over
> the edge into the highest of the small basins set into the inside of
the
> overhang, from which it steps its way down into the fountain proper.
Tiny
> rivulets escape from the many depressions around the edge of the pool,
> meandering a little while and then regrouping and trickling away to
the
> west.
> A path cuts through the trees to the north.
>
> >x path
> I don't see that here.
>
> >
>
> Is this ok?

As a player, I find this response definitely NOT okay. Few things annoy
me more than a response of "I don't see that here" to something that's
specifically mentioned in the room description. At the very least, the
response (I assume it's the TADs default) should be changed so that it
makes sense.

Especially since the path is an obvious indicator of a direction you
can go, it should be able to be examined - or any other action that
makes sense for a path. It doesn't have to be extensive, but something
on the order of:

"The rich, brown dirt of the path leading into the trees shows the
footprints of tiny animals."

> Should every object referenced have a corresponding item within
> the game code? Would a player get upset if they typed 'smell air' and
got
> the message 'I don't know the word 'air'?
>

I don't think that every object needs to have a corresponding item. As
far as smelling the air, there's nothing in the original description
leading me to believe that the air would smell particularly different.
However, if the description included something like:
"A large lilac bush, covered with blossoms, is growing by the
fountain.", I'd be more likely to expect a response 'smell air' -
although I'd probably type 'smell lilacs'.

The more depth you give to the surroundings in your game, the more real
the game world becomes. Of course, this requires a lot of extra work on
the part of the author. In my example above, do I provide a description
for the footprints if they're not significant to the story or a puzzle?

I'd be interested in hearing how others decide where to draw the line
between richness of the game world and the amount of work involved in
creating it.


> If I am opening up old news, please forgive me. My game is close to
being
> finished and I'm now to the point of working on the finer details and
> tweaking things.
>
> One more question. I noticed that there were 6 playtesters listed for
this
> game. Is that enough? How many beta testers should an author use? I
suppose
> it depends on the calibre of the tester. Well, any thoughts are
welcomed.
> I've been away from the ng since October of last year. Had to take a
break
> from the comaraderie!
>
> Thanks,
> Tim
>
>


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Brad O'Donnell

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Apr 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/14/00
to
timsim wrote:

> [...] Should every object referenced have a corresponding item within


> the game code? Would a player get upset if they typed 'smell air' and got
> the message 'I don't know the word 'air'?

Depends on the player ;) But seriously, the "exhaustive corresponding
items" problem is a common problem, and there's no easy answer for it.
If I typed SMELL AIR and got the message "I don't know the word 'air'",
then I would probably never type it again unless I was given sufficient
(and for me that means pretty blatant) hints to that effect.

So from my point of view, the issue comes down to necessity,
consistency,
and interest.

Necessity: The parts of the room description that are absolutely
necessary
to understand or to navigate through the game, must be included as
objects
in and of themselves, and must be clearly referenced in the room
description.
This seems like a no-brainer, but I'm really talking about games that
don't
list their exits; they exist in shockingly massive numbers, and I don't
play anything that needs a map to get from one room to another. Careful
observation of the necessity of any given element of your game will not
only
shorten your room descriptions, but also lower the coding burden; "Is
it
necessary to be able to interact with the air in this game?" If so,
then you
add air-handling code to your game, hooked in with the appropriate room
description elements, and be consistent about it. Otherwise, cut the
air
(and the fat) out of your game, and we'll both be happier.

Consistency: This is the trickiest part of the design; the necessary
parts
determine what you have to be consistent about. If you have paths in
the
game that you can examine, then you better make sure all paths are
examinable,
or I'm gonna get pissed. Same thing goes for scenery. I advocate a
little-used
method where the first paragraph of a room description is nothing but
throw-away
flavour text, containing no "real" objects, and the second paragraph is
where
the real meat begins. But even this doesn't work if you're not
consistent
about it.

Interest: This is where artistic license comes in. If an object or code
is
neither necessary nor consistent, but the overall effect works, then
keep
it. (That's why it's so damn hard to keep things consistent.)


So that's my take on the whole thing; perhaps the best idea in it is
that
with some rampant "is this necessary?" and "is this consistent?"
editorial
cutting, you can make a game where it's feasible to code every object
mentioned in every description. And that's what I want in my heart of
hearts,
anyway.


--
Brad O'Donnell

tim...@my-deja.com

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Apr 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/16/00
to
In article <38F7DA...@unb.ca>,

Brad O'Donnell <s7...@unb.ca> wrote:
> timsim wrote:
>
> > [...] Should every object referenced have a corresponding item
within
> > the game code? Would a player get upset if they typed 'smell air'
and got

snip

Hey, my newsgroup thang is not working so I'm using deja news. ak!
Thanks for the thoughts. Still need help with png images and printing <
without html tads thinking its a tag.


tim

Joe Pfeiffer

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
Speaking only as a player, I'm reminded of a quote I've heard
attributed to Anton Chekov(sp?) ``if there is a gun over the mantle in
the first act, somebody should be shot in the third act. And if
somebody is shot in the third act, there had better have been a gun
over the mantle in the first.''

In other words, anything you explicitly mention should do something.
And there should be a chain of ``examine''s that will lead you to
anything that does something.

So, if you mention that there is an odd, abstract light fixture then
examining that light fixture should reveal something (preferably a
vital clue, but at least the fact that it's dust. Or that it's been
polished recently. But not that the game doesn't know what a light
fixture is). And if there is a vital clue in the light fixture, you
should explicitly mention its existence when you describe the room.
--
Joseph J. Pfeiffer, Jr., Ph.D. Phone -- (505) 646-1605
Department of Computer Science FAX -- (505) 646-1002
New Mexico State University http://www.cs.nmsu.edu/~pfeiffer
VL 2000 Homepage: http://www.cs.orst.edu/~burnett/vl2000/

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