Commonplace Objects

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Dennis Matheson

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Mar 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/10/98
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A puzzle design question. I am working on a game (which may see the
light of day before the millenium) and one of the puzzles I had come up
with involves an electrical outlet.

OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
(even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).

Any suggestions? Or should I just re-design or drop the puzzle?

--
"You can't run away forever, but there's nothing wrong with
getting a good head start" --- Jim Steinman

Dennis Matheson --- Dennis....@transquest.com
--- http://home.earthlink.net/~tanstaafl

Michael Gentry

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Mar 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/10/98
to Dennis Matheson

Dennis Matheson wrote:
>
> A puzzle design question. I am working on a game (which may see the
> light of day before the millenium) and one of the puzzles I had come up
> with involves an electrical outlet.
>
> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
> the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
> can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
> on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
> the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
> are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
> (even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).
>
> Any suggestions? Or should I just re-design or drop the puzzle?

Here's what I would do: put some innocuous (but noticeable) object in
the room, and have it *plugged into* the outlet. A floor lamp, let's
say. The player will see the lamp in the room description and, being a
clever little monkey, start messing with it, most likely beginning with
EXAMINE.

======================================================================
You are in your living room. It's an ordinary room as such things go,
with the usual kinds of furniture: sofa, coffee table, etc. A floor lamp
sheds comfortable light throughout.

>EXAMINE LAMP
Simple and utilitarian -- aluminum stand, cream-colored shade. It's
currently switched on. A cord trailing from the lamp's base is plugged
into an outlet in the wall.

>EXAMINE OUTLET
It's a standard electrical outlet. The lamp is currently plugged into
it.

>GET LAMP
You'll need to unplug it first.

>UNPLUG LAMP
You yank the cord out. The lamp goes dark.
======================================================================

The lamp, of course, has no practical purpose in the game (at least, not
necessarily), other than to cue the player to start looking for
something that he/she wouldn't ordinarily look for. And the outlet is
unobtrusive enough so that no one's going to miss it in the other rooms.

I would strongly suggest NOT putting an outlet in every room, unless it
really makes no difference where the player solves the puzzle. And more
than one per room? Why not just hit yourself in the balls a few times
with a claw hammer?

--M

Thomas Aaron Insel

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Dennis Matheson <"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> writes:

> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
> the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
> can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
> on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
> the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
> are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
> (even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).

One idea -- if the player starts in a room with electrical outlets,
write something like "As in every room in this building, there is
an electrical outlet in each wall." (Make it less awkward.)

Tom
--
Thomas Insel (tin...@jaka.ece.uiuc.edu)
"Americans treat Christmas trees like prostitutes. They pick them up,
adorn them with baubles and gold, enjoy them, then throw them into the
street." -- Xing Chu Wang writing in the Sing Tao newspaper, qtd. in
Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 January 1995

ProwlerBOT

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
to

>One idea -- if the player starts in a room with electrical outlets,
>write something like "As in every room in this building, there is
>an electrical outlet in each wall." (Make it less awkward.)

Or, maybe indicate that an electrical outlet is in the room by way of deduction
-- have something in the room that would have to be plugged into one, for
instance, to even be there & working: "A lamp sits on an otherwise bare wooden
table, its 60-watt bulb buzzing softly as if on its last few hours." This would
distract the player into thinking the lamp was significant -- which might be
good or bad, since they might never think to do anything with the outlet. Hmm.
Just a thought.

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Michael Gentry (michael...@ey.com) wrote:
> Dennis Matheson wrote:

> > OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> > in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
> > the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
> > can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
> > on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
> > the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
> > are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
> > (even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).

> Here's what I would do: put some innocuous (but noticeable) object in


> the room, and have it *plugged into* the outlet. A floor lamp, let's
> say. The player will see the lamp in the room description and, being a
> clever little monkey, start messing with it, most likely beginning with
> EXAMINE.

If you want to be even more clever, have an electrical outlet with a lamp
obviously plugged into it in an *earlier* room. Or have the player trip
over a lamp cord in the first scene of the game, pulling the plug out.
And the generic description for outlets should mention that they're in
every room. (Make a little joke out of it, best.)

> I would strongly suggest NOT putting an outlet in every room, unless it
> really makes no difference where the player solves the puzzle.

I, on the other hand, am very much in favor of outlets everywhere. If you
leave outlets out of a game, that's fine. It means they aren't important.
But if you put in exactly one, players start to wonder, hey, why is this
house wired for power only in the bathroom? It feels shoddy.

> And more
> than one per room? Why not just hit yourself in the balls a few times
> with a claw hammer?

Well, this I agree with. (In spirit, not in claw hammer.)

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Joe Mason

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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*** SPOILERS: Spider and Web ***

This space intentionally left blank.

In article <6e4jp0$o...@gcs.delta-air.com>,


Dennis Matheson <"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:
>A puzzle design question. I am working on a game (which may see the
>light of day before the millenium) and one of the puzzles I had come up
>with involves an electrical outlet.
>

> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
>in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
>the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
>can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
>on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
>the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
>are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
>(even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).
>

> Any suggestions? Or should I just re-design or drop the puzzle?

Spider and Web has a puzzle (two in fact) involving ventilation grilles. There
are grilles in almost every room of the game. Here's the solution used there:

The grilles aren't actually mentioned in the room descriptions. However,
before starting, I'd gotten advice (either from the "ABOUT" section or from a
stray post here, I can't remember) to "over-use examine" when playing. As a
result, I was keyed up to examine EVERYTHING, and when the first room described
in general detail the walls and ceiling, I immediately typed "x walls. x floor.
x ceiling" and was rewarded with a longish description of the walls including
the presence of a ventilation grille. Each room would give the same
description.

Now, if I hadn't type "x walls" I would never have know they were there.
However, there was one other clue, which was that in one location "the ever-
present hiss of the ventilation system" was mentioned.

I think the Spider and Web solution worked well (although as soon as I saw the
first grille, I knew I'd have to use them sooner or later. It's a sneaking-
into-places cliche). Here's what I'd do in your case:

1. Do what Zarf did and don't mention them unless someone specifically looks
at a wall, or some other object which could be connected.

2. Draw attention to them in some other scene. For instance, have a very
obvious electrical item in a different room, which begs to be examined. When
the player examines it, casually mention that "a long black cord snakes across
the room to one of the ever-present electrical sockets". That way the player
will notice one of them, and have fair warning that they're everywhere.
(Remember that if the device is portable, players will want to plug them into
any of the sockets.)

3. Implement some other ubiquitous thing. Light fixtures and switches, for
instance. That way it won't be too obvious that the outlets "were implemented,
so they're important".

OR

4. Add a separate puzzle. For instance, make that above item portable and
pluggable anywhere. However, in the one place it must be used, the only place
to set it down won't let the cord reach the socket. That way it'll be
obvious that outlets are important (and that's why they were implemented), but
not that they're important TWICE.

Just a couple of suggestions. Maybe they're overkill. Take 'em or leave 'em.
Joe

Rick Dague

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Dennis Matheson wrote:
>
> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
> the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?

Sure there are outlets everywhere in the room I'm in. And there are
chairs and light fixtures and carpets and linoleum and rugs. And the
walls are made of wood or plasterboard. And there are windows with glass
and dividers and curtains and a lower part that lifts ups. And vent
grills. And tables. And vases. And bookcases. And trash cans. And
pictures on the walls and a radiator in the corner.

Not to mention the oscilloscope under the desk and the piano just to my
left that I rest my arm on.

TAKE IT EASY.

If you try to implement everything that would be in a room in every room
of your game, you'll have a heart attack. Just put an outlet in the room
you want the player to use the outlet and print a standard message for
the other rooms.

Anyone who gives you a hard time for doing it that way is just being a
prick. Tell 'im to go make a game that satisfies him. He can have the
heart attack.

that's my two cents worth
--Rick

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <19980311030...@ladder03.news.aol.com>,

I think you should go just one step further:

When the player examines the lamp (since it seems to be important), mention that
it's plugged into an outlet in the wall.


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Dancer

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <350574...@geocities.com>, Rick Dague <tri...@geocities.com> wrote:
>Dennis Matheson wrote:
>>
>> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
>> in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
>> the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?
>
>Sure there are outlets everywhere in the room I'm in. And there are
>chairs and light fixtures and carpets and linoleum and rugs. And the
>walls are made of wood or plasterboard. And there are windows with glass
>and dividers and curtains and a lower part that lifts ups. And vent
>grills. And tables. And vases. And bookcases. And trash cans. And
>pictures on the walls and a radiator in the corner.
>
>Not to mention the oscilloscope under the desk and the piano just to my
>left that I rest my arm on.
>
>TAKE IT EASY.
>
>If you try to implement everything that would be in a room in every room
>of your game, you'll have a heart attack.

Looking around me, this room contains:
Two electric fans (one broken)
Two telephones.
A NICAD battery charger.
four power-boards and 4 power outlets.
Four modems (one non-functional)
Two computers, and three computer cases.
A crib
A baby-basket
~450 floppy disks.
~60 books.
~50 software packages
~600 magazines
Several boxes of CD's.
Three bookcases, a table and a hutch-desk.
Ironing board.
Hand-loom.
Electric heater (fan type, not bar)
4 boxes of cables (assorted)
a dozen phone books.
an ugly orange foam couch that has seen better days.
A portable crib
Four or five storage bags of winter clothing.
A large cupboard (containing linen)
A stereo system
A bridge computer
Umm..good lord. A tandy colour computer. Now where did _that_ come from?
Six bags, satchels or cases of various kinds.
A six-foot whip aerial
Oil heater.
30 folders, containing all manner of things
A Mandolin
The original printed manuals for SED, AWK, VI, EX and ED. (gosh)
A couple spare PC power-supplies
Several odd sound cards.
Far Side Desk Calendar.
Digital alarm clock
Diary
DEC site management guide (bizarre. How do these things get in here?)


Whew. That brushes the surface. There's plenty more, and all the rooms
in the house may be considered to be approximately equivalent (with the
exception of the bathroom, this is the smallest room in the house) for
stuff-containing.

Just thinking about the contents of the house, it seems approximately
suitable to virtually any evil, twisted and megalomaniacal scheme,
fighting off hostile aliens, or even....dealing with day-to-day life (I
pause for the obligatory gasp at the mere mention of such a shocking
thing)

..with the exception that there are no firearms, narcotics, or
explosives (beyond the sort that could be made with the proverbial
common household cleaning products). Computer parts, tools, and a dozen
or more computers are all in the _other_ room. This is just the one I
work in.

And in case anyone is wondering...no. No kids. The baby stuff (which we
seem to be inordinately well-equipped with - I reckon we could mind a
dozen of the tykes for a week) are all (apparently) for my niece.

There you go. Typical geek household, although I've seen plenty of
non-geek households (most of them) equally crowded with stuff...just
different stuff.

D

--
before [; Thinking: <post message>; ];

Laurel Halbany

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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On Tue, 10 Mar 1998 19:03:21 -0500, Dennis Matheson
<"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:

> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
>in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
>the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?

Couldn't you give it found_in and concealed?

michael...@ey.com

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:

> > I would strongly suggest NOT putting an outlet in every room, unless it
> > really makes no difference where the player solves the puzzle.
>
> I, on the other hand, am very much in favor of outlets everywhere. If you
> leave outlets out of a game, that's fine. It means they aren't important.
> But if you put in exactly one, players start to wonder, hey, why is this
> house wired for power only in the bathroom? It feels shoddy.

Well, you're right, of course. And like I said, if it makes no difference
where you plug your appliance in, then more power to you; put them everywhere.
All I'm saying is be cautious, because one of two things could easily
happen.

One, you wind up writing reams of code to handle the contingency of each and
every outlet that the player could possibly plug into, crossed with each and
every object that the player could possibly plug into it. Unless you carefully
manage the player's options, this could be a real headache.

Two, you wind up managing the player's options a bit too carefully, and the
player gets very annoyed trying to track down the only working outlet in the
entire house.

>PLUG IN HAIRDRYER
You can't. Something seems to be blocking the outlet.

>EXAMINE OUTLET
Hmm. This outlet is stuffed full of modelling clay, just like
all the others. Not for the first time, you wonder who could
be playing these childish and irritating pranks.


-M


-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
http://www.dejanews.com/ Now offering spam-free web-based newsreading

Mary K. Kuhner

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <6e4jp0$o...@gcs.delta-air.com>,

Dennis Matheson <"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:

> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
>in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
>the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?

If you want to cue the player that there is an outlet there,
without being horribly blatant, how about plugging something
else into it? The player will probably be distracted and fuss
with the other thing for a while, but sooner or later they may
think "Hey, this is plugged in, I could plug *my* gadget in
here."

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Matthew T. Russotto

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <6e4jp0$o...@gcs.delta-air.com>,
Dennis Matheson <"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:

} OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
}in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in

}the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle? I
}can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
}on the north, east and south walls." I don't want to include them in
}the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
}are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
}(even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).
}
} Any suggestions? Or should I just re-design or drop the puzzle?

One possibility is to have appliances in various places in the game.
Examining them would reveal a cord, which you could examine to reveal
an electrical outlet with a description like "A standard US 115V 15A
electrical outlet, a modern necessity in every room in the house".
Examining walls could reveal the outlets as well.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Dennis Matheson

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Mary K. Kuhner wrote:
>
> In article <6e4jp0$o...@gcs.delta-air.com>,
> Dennis Matheson <"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:
>
> > OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> >in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
> >the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?
>
> If you want to cue the player that there is an outlet there,
> without being horribly blatant, how about plugging something
> else into it? The player will probably be distracted and fuss
> with the other thing for a while, but sooner or later they may
> think "Hey, this is plugged in, I could plug *my* gadget in
> here."
>
> Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Thank you to everyone who suggested the "plug something else into it
and let the player examine it" idea. That will work well to draw the
player's attention to the outlet without being blatant about it. Thanks
again.

Brock Kevin Nambo

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Laurel Halbany wrote in message <3506742d...@hermes.rdrop.com>...
>On Tue, 10 Mar 1998 19:03:21 -0500, Dennis Matheson

><"Dennis..Matheson@"@transquest..com> wrote:
>
>> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
>>in probably has more than a few. Now, how do I include the outlet in
>>the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?
>
>Couldn't you give it found_in and concealed?

But then how will the player find out they exist?

>>BKNambo
--
http://come.to/brocks.place - Hey look, it's the Roman Empire!
'"USENET" is actually a very odd text-adventure game written by Infocom
that someone installed on your computer when you weren't looking.'
W o r l d D o m i n a t i o n T h r o u g h T r i v i a !


Brad O`Donnell

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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Dennis Matheson wrote:

> OK, electrical outlets are everwhere. The room you are reading this
> in probably has more than a few.

36, actually :)

> Now, how do I include the outlet in
> the game without making it obvious that it is part of the puzzle?

An electrical outlet, if usable at all, is almost definitely going to
be involved in a puzzle of some sort, so I don't see how this problem
is solvable. If you mention an outlet, I'm going to jump on it in a
flash, and if it doesn't say "That's not important." then I will know
that it has to be used in a puzzle. In fact, I will try to apply it to
*every* puzzle.

> I
> can't have every room description include "There are electrical outlets
> on the north, east and south walls."

> I don't want to include them in
> the description of just this one room (since it makes it obvious they
> are there for a reason). And, not mentioning them at all seems unfair
> (even though, as I pointed out earlier, they *are* everywhere).

Here's where you have to make a decision, and to help you along, here's
my two cents: Just put them in two or three rooms. That way, yes, when
I run across them I'll know they're special, but that said, I'd know they
were special anyway. Their existance in other rooms will help it not feel
"shoddy" or incomplete, and I won't knock my brains out trying to solve
puzzles with the "ambient" electrical outlets.

>
> Any suggestions? Or should I just re-design or drop the puzzle?

Umm...drop the puzzle. I don't like puzzles. :)


--
Brad O'Donnell
"A story is a string of moments, held together by memory."

Kenneth Albanowski

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Mar 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/11/98
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In article <EpMx8...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca>,

Joe Mason <jcm...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca> wrote:
>*** SPOILERS: Spider and Web ***
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> This space intentionally left blank.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>Spider and Web has a puzzle (two in fact) involving ventilation grilles. There
>are grilles in almost every room of the game. Here's the solution used there:
[...]

>Now, if I hadn't type "x walls" I would never have know they were there.
>However, there was one other clue, which was that in one location "the ever-
>present hiss of the ventilation system" was mentioned.

Unfortunately, this failed for me. I did something just after gaining
entrance (I forget what, exactly) that caused the interpreter to ask "did
you mean the ventilation grille, or the X?" Rather gave away the trick,
really, as it put me on to the grilles earlier then I ought to have been.
And come to that, given the logic of these scenes, the interpreter really
shouldn't have offered any grille to me, in any circumstance.

--
Kenneth Albanowski (kja...@kjahds.com)

Laurel Halbany

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Mar 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/12/98
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On Wed, 11 Mar 1998 22:33:30 -0500, "Brock Kevin Nambo"
<newsm...@earthling.net> wrote:


>But then how will the player find out they exist?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but concealed just means you don't have
"There is an electrical outlet here" in the room description. If you
have, say, a lit lava lamp in the room, the player might be told (on
EXAMINEing the lamp) that it is plugged into the wall, whereupon
EXAMINE PLUG will tell them about the plug.

Brock Kevin Nambo

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Mar 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/12/98
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Laurel Halbany wrote in message <350821f...@hermes.rdrop.com>...

You're right. But my impression of the original question was how to
gracefully add the outlets from the writing side, while yours seems to be
from the programming side. Or something.

Dennis....@transquest.com

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Mar 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/13/98
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>>snip<<


> >>But then how will the player find out they exist?
> >
> >Correct me if I'm wrong, but concealed just means you don't have
> >"There is an electrical outlet here" in the room description. If you
> >have, say, a lit lava lamp in the room, the player might be told (on
> >EXAMINEing the lamp) that it is plugged into the wall, whereupon
> >EXAMINE PLUG will tell them about the plug.
>
> You're right. But my impression of the original question was how to
> gracefully add the outlets from the writing side, while yours seems to be
> from the programming side. Or something.
>

>>snip<<

Correct. I can code the outlets as being visible, concealed or abstracted
(which is actually what I am doing. There is only one outlet, but I make
it appear as if there are several of them in every room.) My actual question
was how to let the player know the outlets were there. Listing them in every
room seemed impractical. Listing them only in the room where they were needed
made the solution to a puzzle more obvious. I was asking how to draw the
player's attention to the outlet *without* listing it in the room description.
Several people made the suggestion of having something in the room plugged
into it and revealing the outlet when the player examined it. (An obvious
solution and a perfect example of overlooking the obvious on my part.) I have
added plugged-in objects in several locations in order to hide the importance
of the now-findable outlets. (Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions.)

Joe Mason

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Mar 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/14/98
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In article <6ebrrr$cfh$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>,

<Dennis....@transquest.com> wrote:
>
>solution and a perfect example of overlooking the obvious on my part.) I have
>added plugged-in objects in several locations in order to hide the importance
>of the now-findable outlets. (Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions.)

[browsing ftp://ftp.gmd.de/incoming/if-archive]

Hey, this new game has a neat title - think I'll grab it and see if the
opening screen is interesting.

[in a flash, because these games are tiny and don't take megs and megs - that's
why I like 'em (well, one reason anyway) - the game is downloaded and running ]

Hmm, by Dennis Matheson. Dennis Matheson... Where've I heard that before? Oh,
yeah, he's the guy that went to all that trouble to hide the importance of the
electrical outlets! Have to keep my eye open for those...

(So before releasing this, you'd better leave enough time for us to forget all
about your question... Heh, heh.)

Joe


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