Conversation menus - where to put them

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Magnus Olsson

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Nov 25, 2001, 4:37:26 AM11/25/01
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(Followups set to rec.arts.i-f since this is a design question rather
than a question about specific games).

Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
the menu?

a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?

b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?

or

c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?

And if the game has a separate window, should it have a fixed size and
always be there (but be empty when there's no conversation going on),
or should it appear when you talk to somebody and disappear when you
stop talking (as in "Stick it to the Man")?

Oh, and "I don't like conversation menus" is not a valid answer :-).

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

Eytan Zweig

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Nov 25, 2001, 7:16:08 AM11/25/01
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se...

> (Followups set to rec.arts.i-f since this is a design question rather
> than a question about specific games).
>
> Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
> and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
> the menu?
>
> a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
> b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>
> or
>
> c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?
>
> And if the game has a separate window, should it have a fixed size and
> always be there (but be empty when there's no conversation going on),
> or should it appear when you talk to somebody and disappear when you
> stop talking (as in "Stick it to the Man")?
>

Well, let's start with the easy one - B is definitely, IMO, the worst place
to put the menus.

As for A and C - I think it depends on how much conversation is in the game.
As a rule of thumb, the more conversation the game has, the more I'd prefer
to see it in the bottom of the screen.

Eytan


mattF

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Nov 25, 2001, 7:49:02 AM11/25/01
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se...

> Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth


> and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
> the menu?


So far, the bottom of the screen is my location of choice. It was
mentioned, post-Pytho, that the eye tends to wander away from menus at the
top of the screen, and I very much like the way that once your selection has
been made, your choice merges seamlessly with the game text, so that if you
were to look at a transcript, there would be no topic lists to get in the
way of the narrative... as there would be if one were to have the menu in
the game text.

Overall "Best of three" was a very good and very immersive system. It's
just that I really, really wanted to be able to Kill Grant With Cappuccino.


> And if the game has a separate window, should it have a fixed size and
> always be there (but be empty when there's no conversation going on),
> or should it appear when you talk to somebody and disappear when you
> stop talking (as in "Stick it to the Man")?


Personally, I'd keep it there. Constancy and familiarity. But it's not an
explosive issue for me. Ultimately, I suppose it depends on the game, and
what you wish it to convey. But that's the case with just about everything.


> Oh, and "I don't like conversation menus" is not a valid answer :-).


>KILL MAGNUS WITH CAPPACCINO

Sorry man. Impulse.

-mattF

===========================================
"For me, powdered-sugar donuts are not simply a food source.
They are more like plasma."
-Dr. Bernard Bustoffson

http://home.iprimus.com.au/tarturus
===========================================


DaveL

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Nov 25, 2001, 11:25:43 AM11/25/01
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se...
> (Followups set to rec.arts.i-f since this is a design
question rather
> than a question about specific games).
>
> Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus,
like "Earth
> and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to
put
> the menu?
>
> a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
> b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's
Mask"?
>
> or
>
> c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of
3"?

After playing and enjoying all three of these games, I have
to say that it doesn't matter much to me which of these
options is used.


OKB -- not okblacke

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Nov 25, 2001, 12:12:43 PM11/25/01
to
m...@df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
>and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
>the menu?
>
>a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
>b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>
>or
>
>c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?

Definitely c.

>And if the game has a separate window, should it have a fixed size and
>always be there (but be empty when there's no conversation going on),
>or should it appear when you talk to somebody and disappear when you
>stop talking (as in "Stick it to the Man")?

Well, I'd like it to disappear, but then I would say that :-). The main
reason for this is that it handles the case of "what do you do when there
aren't any NPCs in the room?" Leaving the menu on the screen is, I think,
confusing; even if the menu is empty it can mislead the player into thinking
that there's an NPC present, and that conversation choices might pop up at any
moment.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Kevin Bracey

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Nov 25, 2001, 12:12:37 PM11/25/01
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se...
>
> Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
> and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
> the menu?
>
> a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
> b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>
> or
>
> c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?
>

d) Go nuts and put them in the interpreter's menu with the Z-machine
@make_menu opcode.

Or maybe not.

I reckon that would have worked well as an option for Moments out of Time's
menu system though.

As a serious answer, I'd say either in the game text, or in a window at the
bottom of the screen as long as it isn't occupying permanent screen space.

Depending on your I/O system, it may be possible do things like going back
up to erase an in-line menu after a selection (a bit like the "COLOR" menu
in Shogun), or to have a transient bottom of screen window (a bit like the
error messages in Arthur).

Oh, and people using menus of any sort should put the extra effort in to
make them mouse-selectable. Probably a nicety at any point where you're
going to be switching between typing and menu selecting frequently, but when
navigating structures like hint systems, having the mouse available is great
(eg Zork Zero's hints).

Kevin
-----

L. Ross Raszewski

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Nov 25, 2001, 2:20:48 PM11/25/01
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On 25 Nov 2001 09:37:26 GMT, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>(Followups set to rec.arts.i-f since this is a design question rather
>than a question about specific games).
>
>Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
>and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
>the menu?
>
>a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
>b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>
>or
>
>c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?
>

I'm surprised you didn't mention fullscreen. I know it's not very
popular around here, but it's still a valid choice. (I'd probably have
to go with C myself. Which is a shame, since Converse can do the other
two.)

Magnus Olsson

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Nov 25, 2001, 3:08:48 PM11/25/01
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In article <9trgag$9gn$1...@foobar.cs.jhu.edu>,

L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:
>On 25 Nov 2001 09:37:26 GMT, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>>(Followups set to rec.arts.i-f since this is a design question rather
>>than a question about specific games).
>>
>>Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
>>and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
>>the menu?
>>
>>a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>>
>>b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>>
>>or
>>
>>c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?
>>
>
>I'm surprised you didn't mention fullscreen. I know it's not very
>popular around here, but it's still a valid choice.

Fullscreen? You mean letting the conversation menu fill the entire
interpreter window? (Taking over the entire screen under a windowing
system would seem a bit excessive)

Anyway, I should have stated that I was making the assumption that
the odinary otuput window should still be visible. In the game I'm
planning, that would be most convenient.

M Joonas Pihlaja

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Nov 25, 2001, 5:09:13 PM11/25/01
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On 25 Nov 2001, Magnus Olsson wrote:

> a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?

[snip]


> c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?

C) with fallback to a) if there are no windows available or
anymore. For example, Best of 3 could have worked perfectly well
under cheapglk but didn't. (At one point I only had access to
glulxe compiled with cheapglk, nothing but hours to kill and no
way of compiling anything. Bo3 would have been a nice
distraction.)

> And if the game has a separate window, should it have a fixed
> size and always be there (but be empty when there's no
> conversation going on), or should it appear when you talk to
> somebody and disappear when you stop talking (as in "Stick it
> to the Man")?

Variable size to fit the menu options. An empty window in a
prominent place on the screen distracts.

Regards,

Joonas

Sean T Barrett

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Nov 25, 2001, 5:29:31 PM11/25/01
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In article <9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
>c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?

I think (a) is a good choice when you HAVE to make
a choice from THIS menu.

(c) is a good choice when you can abort the menu ('0')
or switch menus (Bo3's TOPIC system). This is nice because
your screen/scrollback doesn't fill with never-used menus.

On the other hand, it can be annoying because you WANT
to look at the scrollback and see what choices you had
before (e.g. to come up with ideas for what to TOPIC),
but sadly they're not there.

Also, even with (c) and TOPIC, the screen/scrollback DOES
fill up with the issuing of 'TOPIC' commands. But that's
still better than what would happen with (a).

SeanB

ems...@mindspring.com

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Nov 26, 2001, 2:08:34 AM11/26/01
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m...@df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote in message news:<9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se>...
> Supposing you're playing a game wih conversation menus, like "Earth
> and Sky" or "Best of 3", where do you think it's best to put
> the menu?
>
> a) In the game text, as in "Earth and Sky"?
>
> b) In a window at the top of the screen, as in "Pytho's Mask"?
>
> or
>
> c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?

For the record: Best of Three can in fact do either b or c. c is set
as the default, since I found it most congenial personally, but if you
type >MENU at the prompt, it will move to the top of the screen
instead.

It was pointed out to me (unfortunately after I'd submitted the game)
that it would be nice for users of CheapGlk and for those with
screenreaders if there were also an option to throw the menu into the
game text. I plan to modify the relevant libraries to make this
another option in my future releases.

I personally still prefer to play with the menu at the bottom of the
screen. I also prefer it to stay in one place and not vanish, because
I dislike the effect of having my screen real estate flicker back and
forth between modes.

ES

Jason C. Penney

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Nov 26, 2001, 10:00:03 AM11/26/01
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Kevin Bracey <ke...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

> Oh, and people using menus of any sort should put the extra effort in to
> make them mouse-selectable. Probably a nicety at any point where you're
> going to be switching between typing and menu selecting frequently, but when
> navigating structures like hint systems, having the mouse available is great
> (eg Zork Zero's hints).

V6Lib users will just get this for 'free' soon (for somewhat longer
values of soon).

Jay


--
Jason C Penney (jpenney [AT] jczorkmid.net) Xarton Dragon -=<UDIC>=-
<http://www.jczorkmid.net>
"Time and tide melts the snow man." --The Doctor

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 26, 2001, 12:23:45 PM11/26/01
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On Sun, 25 Nov 2001, Sean T Barrett wrote:

> In article <9tqe4m$6u5$1...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
> >c) In a window at the bottom of the screen, as in "Best of 3"?
>

> (c) is a good choice when you can abort the menu ('0')
> or switch menus (Bo3's TOPIC system). This is nice because
> your screen/scrollback doesn't fill with never-used menus.
>
> On the other hand, it can be annoying because you WANT
> to look at the scrollback and see what choices you had
> before (e.g. to come up with ideas for what to TOPIC),
> but sadly they're not there.

This is probably the primary reason I like to have the conversation menus
in the game text -- games whose transcripts don't make enough sense (or
that cut out crucial information therein) are an irrational pet peeve of
mine.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
Add your own brick to the wall of SPAG -- write a review! The deadline
for the annual competition issue is December 5, 2001.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Nov 26, 2001, 1:17:34 PM11/26/01
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"mattF" <lust_fo...@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<3c00e...@news.iprimus.com.au>...

> Overall "Best of three" was a very good and very immersive system. It's
> just that I really, really wanted to be able to Kill Grant With Cappuccino.

Eh, oversight. (I did think about implementing >POUR TEA ON GRANT,
but wound up not doing so for time reasons.) Storme Winfield has
requested a version 2 in which various inventive deaths are
implemented for Grant, which, I admit, might be rather cathartic.

Kinda busy right now, though.

ES

OKB -- not okblacke

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Nov 26, 2001, 5:02:51 PM11/26/01
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Paul O'Brian obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu wrote:
>This is probably the primary reason I like to have the conversation menus
>in the game text -- games whose transcripts don't make enough sense (or
>that cut out crucial information therein) are an irrational pet peeve of
>mine.

I find this annoying as well, and I tried to address it in "Stick it to
the man" by having the actual dialogue from the menu be echoed in the main
text. This, I think, is best if what you want is a record of what happened,
since it doesn't clutter the game with unchosen menu options, but still allows
you to see what was said. The burden is on the game programmer, though, to
make this happen, since there's no reasonable way to do this automatically (you
never know whether you'll want the "she says" to come after or before the
dialogue, or split it -- or maybe it's "he exclaimed" or "she said huskily").

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 26, 2001, 5:12:50 PM11/26/01
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On 26 Nov 2001, OKB -- not okblacke wrote:

> Paul O'Brian obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu wrote:
> >This is probably the primary reason I like to have the conversation menus
> >in the game text -- games whose transcripts don't make enough sense (or
> >that cut out crucial information therein) are an irrational pet peeve of
> >mine.
>
> I find this annoying as well, and I tried to address it in "Stick it to
> the man" by having the actual dialogue from the menu be echoed in the main
> text.

This goes some distance towards addressing the problem, but my own quirky
preference is to be able to see what the options were as well as which
option was chosen.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Nov 26, 2001, 5:51:39 PM11/26/01
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Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message news:<Pine.GSO.4.40.011126...@ucsu.colorado.edu>...

> On Sun, 25 Nov 2001, Sean T Barrett wrote:
> > On the other hand, it can be annoying because you WANT
> > to look at the scrollback and see what choices you had
> > before (e.g. to come up with ideas for what to TOPIC),
> > but sadly they're not there.
>
> This is probably the primary reason I like to have the conversation menus
> in the game text -- games whose transcripts don't make enough sense (or
> that cut out crucial information therein) are an irrational pet peeve of
> mine.

Possibly it makes more sense to make a special transcripting mode that
will create an annotated transcript, leaving the game screen itself
pristine. Back in the day when I printed the menu straight to the
main window I found that it made me crazy: the layout was cluttered,
and reprinted menus took up a lot of the scrollback buffer, allowing
me to see less of the *story* when I scrolled up.

ES

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Nov 27, 2001, 11:33:15 AM11/27/01
to
I remember a discussion some time ago about the location of the status
line on the screen. Someone cited some usability research indicating
that the eye tends to rest on the bottom of the screen and that this is a
less fatiguing place to put information that the user has to check
frequently. (Thus, for example, this is where the health and ammo meters
tend to go in videogames.) For the usual status line, this point seemed
more or less irrelevant, as the player needs to be reminded of the score
and current room fairly infrequently. But in a conversation menu, the
options can change every turn in unpredictable ways. I'd say the bottom
is better than the top.

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