How should a game respond to vulgar input? Are players expecting some kind of
rebuke and would they be disappointed if the game ignored vulgarities? What's
the best/worst response to foul language you've got from a text adventure game?
Well, "Curses" is almost obligated to respond, by virtue of the title. ;-)
> With the risk of sounding oafish and immature, I must confess that the first
> thing I do when I start playing a text adventure game is to type "fuck". The
> responses, ranging from mildly lecturing (Curses) to annoyingly stern
> (Mulldoon), have taken me aback a little. It seems strange that a game
> a marvellous job of not understanding 99 percent of English vocabulary,
> such an accurate rejoinder to a word that, in most cases, is utterly
> to the story.
I can think of a couple of reasons. One simple one is precedent: the
Infocom games, at least, recognized "naughty" input, and a default
response is incorporated in Inform, so it's more effort to remove it than
to leave it in. Even if that weren't the case, people tend to implement
verbs that have appeared a lot in previous games.
> How should a game respond to vulgar input? Are players expecting some kind of
> rebuke and would they be disappointed if the game ignored vulgarities?
I think many of them are amused to find a response there -- much as people
often type XYZZY, just to see if the designer has come up with anything
for it. And when you get bored and start poking at the boundaries of the
game (and the boundaries of good taste), it is usually amusing to find
that the author has anticipated your miniature rebellion. The rebuke
aspect, I think, is there not so much because all IF authors are pure of
speech and innocent of thought, but because the player is breaking the
game contract -- no longer trying to participate in the author's world or
solve a puzzle, but instead being transgressive. (For the same reason, I
usually build my NPCs with a response to >ASK ABOUT SEX, even if there is
no logical in-game reason for the conversation to work around to that.
People tend to try it. They just do.)
Also, I suppose, there are people who will type in obscenities when stuck
on a puzzle. I don't personally find that a great relief for frustration
-- I'm more of the >THROTTLE AUNT JEMIMA THEN DRAG HER LIFELESS BODY INTO
THE STORAGE CLOSET type. Chacun a son gout.
Another approach, I suppose, given that most foul language does have a
genuine significance as a verb, would be to implement them in all
seriousness (eg: 'Whom do you wish to fuck?' or 'You do not currently feel
the urge to move your bowels.').
>Also, I suppose, there are people who will type in obscenities when stuck
>on a puzzle. I don't personally find that a great relief for frustration
>-- I'm more of the >THROTTLE AUNT JEMIMA THEN DRAG HER LIFELESS BODY INTO
>THE STORAGE CLOSET type. Chacun a son gout.
What's that sound? Would that be dozens of game authors amending their
Fall Competition games to handle a new input...?
Heh. I remember one time I was stuck in Shogun.
Typed "fuck mariko", solved the puzzle, got a point, laughed my ass
off. It never occurred to me that a serious non-"adult" game
would have sex for the PC in it...
Matthew T. Russotto mrus...@speakeasy.net
Every time you buy a CD, a programmer is kicked in the teeth.
Every time you buy or rent a DVD, a programmer is kicked where it counts.
Every time they kick a programmer, 1000 users are kicked too, and harder.
A proposed US law called the CBDTPA would ban the PC as we know it.
This is not a joke, not an exaggeration. This is real.
I take it you have not played _Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country_,
Hardly strange. It's an easy response to implement -- it requires no
checking of the player's status, because the response will be the same
everywhere in the game. (Except for those games in which a more
finely-tuned response is appropriate -- thank you, Mr. Thornton -- but
you're not talking about those.)
Besides, the mildly lecturing response in _Curses_ wound up in the
standard Inform library. It's a one-line change to customize it for
your game; it's actually a little *more* work to remove it entirely.
> How should a game respond to vulgar input?
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.
Maybe the game should shut down AND erase itself from the hard drive ! ! ! !
In the early days, at least, an attempt was made to produce a
response for everything test players did. And let's not forget:
"The Adventurer attempts to eat his sword. I don't think
it will agree with him.
...from "Enchanter", and the entire "Hello Sailor" rag.
And, for what it's worth, I found the key to the solution of the
"Adventure" endgame when, frustrated, I typed in a mild British oath.
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
I think that should be good for a yuk or two.
Unless it's a very short, or really, really engrossing, game, that'd be the
point where I delete the game from my HD and give it a 1 (if a comp game).
Actually, it sounds as if that is an interesting gimmick, unless it is
used only 'for a yuk or two', as in, a traditional cliched
dragon/wizard/crystal ball game that, for no reason at all, terminates
without saving. However, if it's used in a adam-cadre style
commentary on society type of work, it would be quite interesting to
see the full result.
That would be reason enough for me stop playing the game at once and to
erase it from my hard drive. I really *detest* didactic authors...
Klingon function calls do not have 'parameters' -
they have 'arguments' - and they ALWAYS WIN THEM.
*shrugs* That's fine. I'm willing to live with poor reviews by people
who want to type obscenities into IF games. Without being heavy-handed
about it, programmers have every right to implement the game however
they wish, and players have a right to play (or not play) any game they
It's not like I wouldn't warn the player either...by a statement in the
INFO section. Thus I would be off the hook as regards playability
issues. But if you view your ability to type in profanities as sacred
and urinate on the game in a review because it doesn't let you, then you
will want to steer clear of my games. Every one of my games will now
contain this routine, so please feel free to mark them with a "1" as
your caprice demands. Perhaps I can email you a list of prospective
titles and due dates so that you can rate them in advance?
Every game imparts its own point -- and thus every game is didactic
(that much is obvious from plot construction and what you get rewarded
for). Every author is didactic at some level. Just examine what the
built-in INFORM responses to vulgarity are. That's didacticism in
action. I won't press the point any further except to note that a vast
array of literature is didactic in nature (especially schoolbooks)...but
again, that is fine. Whether your irrational hatred of games that don't
let you type in words that have nothing to do with solving the game does
not bother me. I hope you derive much enjoyment from doing so with other
I don't care about my ability to type obscenities - I actually very rarely
type obscenities into a game, unless I have good reason to think that doing
so will be helpful.
I feel very strongly about games that throw me out of the game without
warning or saving the game, for any reason.
Just to make myself perfectly clear, I'm not objecting to your agenda - I'm
objecting to your methods.
>Every game imparts its own point -- and thus every game is didactic
One question I would ask, were I you, is "what is my point?" Doing
something some players may dislike is fine. Doing so for no reason is
not particularly constructive. Drastic metagame changes resulting from
frivolous input annoy a lot of people (note that some Infocom games,
in particular Beyond Zork and Arthur, did similar things, but they
were more along the lines of a warning than a game-killing failure).
As an author, you are of course free to write your game however you
want, provided it does not do malicious damage. However, if you wish a
good reception, playing to your audience's preferences may be a good
+------Archbishop, First Church of Mystical Agnosticism------+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Alfred Renyi |
| Jake Wildstrom |
SPOILER for HHGTTG:
Pretty annoying, huh?
(mild spoiler for Galatea)
After asking Galatea about sex the game terminates and the player is
told, by the narrator, that he/she (the player) is "bored with sexual
angst" and has nothing interesting to say.
One problem with this approach is that the game always has the upper
hand over the player. The game can be condescending, boorish and even
insulting without giving the player the opportunity to repay in kind.
After all, the game is too dumb to understand even the simplest
I wouldn't mind if Galatea the character behaved like a prude, old
spinster but when the game as a whole, and indirectly the author, does
that then I'm not going to hesitate to remove it from my hard drive.
I'm sorry, but being condescended by something that is only slightly
more intelligent than my vacuum cleaner is not my idea of fun.
Mhm, I don't really think that fiction can be defined as a sub-group of
dictactic texts. The purpose of fiction is not the point that "the reader
is about to learn something" - fiction in the broadest sense is about
story-telling. Good literature certainly does expand the horizon of the
reader, but not in the way that the author dictates the points which the
reader (or player) has learn. Literature is a double-sided process in which
the text as well as the reader and his world-knowledge take part. Text and
reader are on the same hierarchical level.
Driving home the point and assuming the role of a "teacher" is bad story-
telling and nothing more. What you are planning to do in your game is more
or less claiming the right to punish the player for a supposed wrong-doing
and thus you try to usurp a higher hierarchical level. If you throw a player
out of a game you are cutting off the bilateral exchange between text and
reader - the only result will be that you will annoy your reader. And what
reason should an annoyed reader have to continue the game? Is losing a
player really worth "one or two yuks" - which you as an author will never
know about anyway?
> Just examine what the built-in INFORM responses to vulgarity are. That's
> didacticism in action. I won't press the point any further
It is *very* kind of you that you do not insist on overwhelming me with your
> except to note
> that a vast array of literature is didactic in nature (especially
I do not consider schoolbooks to be literature. Also, texts written for
schoolbooks tend to be rather bad literature. Didactic literature in the
closer sense does not tend to live through the test of time.
> but again, that is fine. Whether your irrational hatred of
> games that don't let you type in words that have nothing to do with solving the
> game does not bother me.
Why are saying that I am driven by "irrational hatred"? (Does something like
"rational hatred" exist, btw?) I simply state that I do not like games which
treat me, the player, in a certain off-hand way. I do not like highschool-movies
because of their sophomoric humour and I would not watch them. I do not like
Thomas Hardy whom I consider exceedingly dull. I do not like operettas because
I think most of them are shallow. Does that mean that I have an "irrational hatred"
for highschool-movies, Hardy or operettas?
> I hope you derive much enjoyment from doing so with other
> Still amazed,
? Of what? That I as a player do not like your plan? You will have to live with that,
It doesn't do so always. Like with any other question it may end the
game, depending on what's the state of the characters.
Now, a real grievance would concern the fact that we aren't
allowed to ask Galatea *for* sex. ;-)
> After asking Galatea about sex the game terminates and the player is
> told, by the narrator, that he/she (the player) is "bored with sexual
> angst" and has nothing interesting to say.
That's funny you should mention that, because that is, in my opinion,
an excellent answer to "vulgar" input.
To be honest, I've never asked a total stranger about sex. But I can
imagine that doing so, would end the conversation pretty quickly, in a
way similar to that bit in Galatea.
As I often respond to this: THe author has the right to be an asshole,
but not if he actually wants people to play his game.
Obviously, if you don't want people to play your game, do as you
will. But it's a waste of time to distribute a game you don't want
people to play.
Yes, you have a right to do as you will in your game. However, by
wanting your game to be played, you are entering into an implicit
'contract' with the rules of logic. This contract binds you from doing
Stuff That Will Piss The Player Off.
Oh, I have, and it usually does.
>Whether your irrational hatred of games that don't
> let you type in words that have nothing to do with solving the game does
> not bother me. I hope you derive much enjoyment from doing so with other
> Still amazed,
Surely the appropriate test is "does the author's response to my (the
player's) action make the game more fun to play?" After all, that's
the reason that people play IF - for fun.
If a game quit on me without warning or save, (aka "crashed" from the
player's perspective) then I'd probably start it up again, mumbling
mild obscenities under my breath - at which point if it had audio
input, I suppose it would "crash" again. :o)
If you don't like people typing words like "poot" and "bother" into
your game, I think it would be far more effective to demonstrate your
feelings by say, having an enormous authorial "thumb of God" mash the
player like an insect, followed by a deadflag message:
***You have not only died, but been sent to hell with special
instructions to have your lips stitched to your bumhole, potty
The minor annoyance of having to type UNDO is about the maximum
penalty I would consider reasonable for an action which, by virtue of
your absence, cannot have offended you.
As for me? Well the only problem with swearing is that it sometimes
offends people (although on occaisions that can be a feature, not a
bug <g>) since the player is *typing* these words, that obviously
cannot apply. Relax, dude. :o)
In my personal experience, the more satisfying and fulfilling your sex
life is, the less eager you are to talk about it. My sex life is
rather bleak and I don't mind talking about it.
This would also explain why people who write text adventure games
avoid the subject. After all, it's a well known stereotype that
computer geeks have rich sex lifes.
Reading r.a.i.f. I had the impression that it's one of those groups that
passively discourages smileys. I think that the lack of smileys forces a higher
standard of writing and I think that Aris' post would have been more
'laugh-worthy' without it. Whether irony is supposed to make you laugh is
> > Now, a real grievance would concern the fact that we aren't
> > allowed to ask Galatea *for* sex. ;-)
> Reading r.a.i.f. I had the impression that it's one of those groups that
> passively discourages smileys. I think that the lack of smileys forces a
> higher standard of writing and I think that Aris' post would have been more
> 'laugh-worthy' without it. Whether irony is supposed to make you laugh is
> another question.
Well, not here on r.a.i.f.. Even adroit sarcasm (or irony, which is merely the
post-modern term for polite sarcasm) is not amusing on r.a.i.f. because it is
a pretty normal mode of discourse here. You see, since sarcasm requires a
recognized perception of the contrast between reality and stated reality,
and since your average highly intelligent and grounded r.a.i.f. subscriber
recognizes such contrasts immediately, a frequent gently ironic tone is
expected. Nor are emoticons needed here, since the social
cues which are used in the real world to signal slow people who might not be
paying attention that we are now being facetious, are not required in this
news-group of nimble-minded folks who do not necessarily assume statements to be
taken perfectly literally. It's very refreshing if your real life is filled
with morons, because here on r.a.i.f. it's a completely different world.
> "tarage" <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote in message
> > I'm in the designing stage of an IF game and what I'm planning on doing
> > is having the game terminated immediately without saving.
> > I think that should be good for a yuk or two.
> > ~Tarage
One day, I got bored while playing King's Quest II. So I decided to
kill the monk. It was minorly annoying, as I had not saved too
recently. The author had decided that if the player was just going to
wander around killing characters, particularly a monk, then the player
did not deserve to play the game. I was a little irritated, but the
game was trying to make a moral statement.
I have also seen some pretty funny responses to immoral conduct in a
game. But mostly, I have seen it completely ignored. Definitely the
safest, but also the most boring. I am not a very good gamer, so I am
easily frustrated. Eventually I stoop to swearing, bug hunting, and
easter egg hunting, because I am not accomplished enough to solve the
darn thing. Implementing unexpected reactions definitely makes your
game more fun when people are stumped.
I have seen all three approaches to vulgarities (lecture, ignore,
encourage). It doesn't really bother me which the author chooses to
implement. It is up to the author to decide which statement his/her