Darkness in int-fiction: Anyone done it *well*?

12 views
Skip to first unread message

The Grim Reaper

unread,
May 23, 1994, 8:49:53 PM5/23/94
to
Well, I'm starting another discussion topic here...

One of the standard puzzles in many i-f games is to have a room that's
dark for whatever reason, and you need the flashlight/brass lamp/glowing
rock to see in it. However, I have yet to see a game where darkness has
been done well. I'm not exactly sure how to do it well, but I haven't
seen a game that does it ;P. Ideally, you should be able to find most things
in dark rooms, even though it takes a bit longer. You shouldn't be able to
examine things (of course), but you should be able to manipulate them in
most other ways. You should be able to get to the exit if you've seen
the room before, and try to find the exit if you haven't seen the room lit
before. Ideally, light sources should occasionally filter in, if the
room next to the one you're in has a light source in it. You should not
die if you wander around in the dark. All this previous stuff is pretty
obvious. I run into problems trying to decide about objects you don't know
about. Should you be able to get a key from the floor in a dark room,
if you don't know it's there? How about flipping a lever? Anyone
have ideas on how to handle darkness better?

+----------------------------------------------------------+
| One .sig to rule them all, one .sig to find them... |
| One .sig to bring them all and in the darkness bind them |
+----------------------------------------------------------+
| The Grim Reaper (Reaper of Souls, Stealer of .sigs) |
| scy...@u.washington.edu |
+----------------------------------------------------------+

Sean Barrett

unread,
May 24, 1994, 1:39:44 PM5/24/94
to
I've never seen it done well.

I think the easiest thing to do is limit
the distance to which you can see.

If your engine allows the player to look through
exits and see into other rooms, that's one place
to fire it.

But, as I said elsewhere, one consideration for
adventure game simulation is to simulate a full
3D world space, even if you don't literally
present it to the player as such. You can then
directly determine the distance from player to
object given the lighting conditions. Unfortunately
nobody (that I know of) has seriously pursued doing
3space in text, and so there's lots of unanswered
user-interface questions/problems.

Sean Barrett

LUKE ROBERTS

unread,
May 26, 1994, 4:43:26 AM5/26/94
to
So far we've been discussing darkness in caves and inside buildings. What
about darkness outside - i.e. having day and night ? Has anyone seen this
done well in any text-adventure ?

One problem if you have days and nights is timing them... perhaps a day
is 24 turns long, say. Or maybe different actions should take different
lengths of time.... searching a large room should take a longer time than
picking up the brick.

Any ideas ?

stud...@eku.acs.eku.edu

unread,
May 26, 1994, 12:26:05 AM5/26/94
to
In article <2rrivh$o...@news.u.washington.edu>, scy...@u.washington.edu (The Grim Reaper) writes:

> One of the standard puzzles in many i-f games is to have a room that's
> dark for whatever reason, and you need the flashlight/brass lamp/glowing
> rock to see in it. However, I have yet to see a game where darkness has
> been done well.
[snip, snip]

> I run into problems trying to decide about objects you don't know
> about. Should you be able to get a key from the floor in a dark room,
> if you don't know it's there? How about flipping a lever? Anyone
> have ideas on how to handle darkness better?

Well, there's always something like:

You have moved into a dark place.

It is dark here.

>feel the walls

The walls are smooth except for openings to the north, south, and
southwest.

>feel the floor

Feeling the floor you find: something small and metallic.

>take it

Taken.

>north

Infirmary
There are a group of infirms here, jumping wildly about.

>i

You are holding a gold key.

Now, if it's really important to your story; well, you can probably
handle it however you wish. If darkness hasn't been handled well in the
past, I'm sure it's because it just wasn't important to the story.

Similarly for the simulation argument; for myself I would say, if it's
not REALLY important to the story, handle it in whatever offhand manner
you desire:

>burn the *object* with the torch

The *object*, more flammable than you imagined, vaporizes instantly. I
hope you didn't need that!
-or-
The newspaper seems to be made of new, 25th century inflammable paper.

It is my opinion that we're writing stories, not simulations. Save
simulations for virtual reality, where it can be DONE. Write a story,
and whatever's important, PUT IT IN THERE.

So, if you're writing a story where the player is a vampire, he/she will
probably be in the dark a lot. So, put the time in to handle it well.

-David Parsley

David Baggett

unread,
May 26, 1994, 11:47:15 PM5/26/94
to
In article <1994May25....@eku.acs.eku.edu>,

<stud...@eku.acs.eku.edu> wrote:
>So, if you're writing a story where the player is a vampire, he/she will
>probably be in the dark a lot.

Except that vampires can see in the dark... :)

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu MIT AI Lab NEW .sig Lite!
ADVENTIONS: We make Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog of releases.

richard_hunt

unread,
May 30, 1994, 2:29:48 PM5/30/94
to

I started writing an adventure (in GFA Basic on the ST) until I shelved it for
a while until I had a decent plot. What I did plan for it and started to
implement was just this. Every action had a time in minutes associated with,
as did each exit from a location. This would update the world's time and lead
to a different location description depending whether it was pitch black /
partially illuminated (by lamp or dawn/dusk) or full daylight. The darker it
was the less there would be in the description and certain objects wouldn't be
seen. I'm thinking of resurrecting this adventure and the approach but with
TADS or something like that. Is it possible to do what I've described with
TADS?

Russell Wallace

unread,
May 30, 1994, 7:35:40 PM5/30/94
to
l...@rowan.coventry.ac.uk (LUKE ROBERTS) writes:

If anyone does this, please remember that at night time it is still
bright enough to see where you're going, even if not bright enough to
read... In other words, it is not pitch black like in an underground
cave.

--
"To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem"
Russell Wallace, Trinity College, Dublin
rwal...@cs.tcd.ie

Jason Noble

unread,
May 30, 1994, 8:09:00 PM5/30/94
to
In article <2s1nfe$d...@rowan.coventry.ac.uk> l...@rowan.coventry.ac.uk
(LUKE ROBERTS) writes:

>So far we've been discussing darkness in caves and inside buildings. What
>about darkness outside - i.e. having day and night ? Has anyone seen this
>done well in any text-adventure ?

I think Infocom's AMFV did this reasonably well, both in simulation mode and
in terms of the view through the protagonist's cameras (for those unfamiliar
with the game, in AMFV you play a sentient computer, who can simulate a
human life in one mode and observe the real world through six cameras in
another mode). However, darkness made no real difference to game play: it
was a purely decorative function. (Although after it got dark in the
simulated city, you were more likely to get mugged or arrested for
vagrancy).

>One problem if you have days and nights is timing them... perhaps a day
>is 24 turns long, say. Or maybe different actions should take different
>lengths of time.... searching a large room should take a longer time than
>picking up the brick.

Certainly timing becomes a factor. If your game "day" was too long, the
player might never experience a game "night", because they've already solved
(or given up on) the game. How long is a turn, anyway? I've always thought
of them as about one minute on average, so I'd be inclined to make a 24 hour
day equal to, err... [24 x 60 = 1440] 1440 turns! Whew, now how many of you
have ever seen a turn counter get to 1440?

But as you suggest, the trick is surely to make different actions take
different lengths of time (a non-trivial problem in itself; there was a
thread on this a few months ago). So, for example, in a whodunnit IF, the
player might expend many turns with a command like "examine files", if
he/she is in the county records office. "Sleep" or "wait" commands will
also use up a lot of game turns / time.

But to return to the original topic of darkness: I suspect what people have
been looking for in this thread is a more sophisticated treatment of
darkness than the dichotomy of light room = player can see everything / dark
room = player can see nothing and do nothing much. I think one could code
up a system that would add more realism, and I don't think it would need to
be very elaborate.

Consider darkness in the "real world": it seems to me that on a moonlit
night or in an unlit room you can actually see most things. OK, you can't
read a book, or assemble a complex mechanism, but you can see and pick up
most objects. So, darkness under these circumstances is largely decorative.
If you're on the front lawn during the day, you get a description that
mentions the sun coming through the trees. If at night, the description
mentions the stillness of everything and the way the grass looks silver in
the moonlight. Under both circumstances, you can pick up objects, see
objects, etc.

Now, with real darkness (like when you go caving and everyone turns off
their lights) it is actually much like the old Infocom standard: you cannot
see *anything*, travel would be foolish or impossible, and picking up
objects would depend on being lucky enough to trip over them. Adventure
games already simulate this quite well.

I suspect all that's needed to give darkness a more realistic treatment in
IF is:
(a) adaptive room descriptions that reflect (pardon the pun) the
available light; and

(b) a third class of rooms (additional to the well-lit room and the dark
room), where light levels are low. Examples would be an outdoor
location at night; or a location thirty feet into a tunnel, where some
light seeps in. In these locations (which would often form a
transition between fully lit and completely dark locations) the more
"gross motor" activities could be performed (seeing all objects except
very small ones, picking up objects, pressing buttons, etc.), but
"fine motor" activities (eg. reading, examining something small) would
be impossible without additional, artificial light.


Regards,

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jason Noble | jno...@bunyip.bhs.mq.edu.au
National Centre for HIV Social Research | jno...@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia | ph. (61 2) 850 8667
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Greg Ewing

unread,
May 31, 1994, 8:55:48 PM5/31/94
to
In article <2sdv6s$d...@sunb.ocs.mq.edu.au>, jno...@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au

(Jason Noble) writes:
|>
|> "gross motor" activities could be performed (seeing all
objects except
|> very small ones,

You might not be able to identify some objects in dim light,
so the algorithm should perhaps include describing an object's
silhouette if light is low and you haven't seen it before in
full light.

|> Jason Noble | jno...@bunyip.bhs.mq.edu.au
|> National Centre for HIV Social Research | jno...@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au
|> Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia | ph. (61 2) 850 8667

Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, +--------------------------------------+
University of Canterbury, | A citizen of NewZealandCorp, a |
Christchurch, New Zealand | wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan Inc.|
gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz +--------------------------------------+

Olly Betts

unread,
Jun 3, 1994, 9:53:07 AM6/3/94
to
In article <2sdv6s$d...@sunb.ocs.mq.edu.au>,

Jason Noble <jno...@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au> wrote:
>Consider darkness in the "real world": it seems to me that on a moonlit
>night or in an unlit room you can actually see most things. OK, you can't
>read a book, or assemble a complex mechanism, but you can see and pick up
>most objects. So, darkness under these circumstances is largely decorative.

It seems to me that if you're going to model varying light levels, then
you really ought to allow the player's eyes to become accustomed to the
dark. It shouldn't be too hard - just have a number which says how open
the iris is, and each turn adjust this according to the current light
level. So the player's subjective light level is (iris)*(light_level).

When you walk into the cave on a Sunny day, you can only go so far
before you can't see. Wait for a while, and then "Your eyes become
accustomed to the gloom and you can see a way on".

Olly
--
"It's no use stroking me, Mr. Boyce, I'm from the BBC" - David Lander, Delve

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages