How to avoid lots of empty rooms?

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Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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I've got another dilemma in writing my game. Let's give an example...

In Planetfall, the character explores a lost colony complex which has
been abandoned for years. Obviously, a complex must have sleeping
areas, sanitary facilities, a mess area, a rec area, etc. etc. etc. And
Planetfall contained all of these... six bathrooms, four dorm rooms, two
rec rooms, an empty annex room, several sections of empty hall, etc.
none of which had anything to do with the game except to provide a
"realistic" feel.

The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

My game is set in a ghost town... obviously, there have to be a certain
number of buildings there. Even throwing in a fire that destroyed the
residental portion of town (it's reason for becoming a ghost town, when
everyone moved on) Main street still has a lot of buildings that I'm not
sure I can (or want to) make useful, but if they're not there they might
be an empty gap. Sure, I can leave out the Wells-Fargo office and
only the history buff will notice, and I might get away without a
Druggist's shop, but leave out the Bank or Post Office as well and
people might notice.

Now Planetfall could have gotten away with moving a lot of that out of
the game. An elevator or locked door labeled "Dormitory and Recreation"
that the player can never get through would suffice to eliminate a large
number of rooms. (And it's not like the author had anything against
areas you could never get into.) Then just shortening some hallways (I
don't think an empty hall should *ever* be more than one "room," no
matter how long it is, unless it serves some game function) and
eliminating/consolidating useless rooms would have gone a long way.

Now I could put bars on the windows of the Bank and Wells-Fargo office
and lock the doors... you can look, but you can't touch. But it's not
likely that I can through in the Hotel without the player wanting to
explore every square inch of it. (Collapse the stairs leading to the
rooms, eh?)

But I don't want to create too many areas that the player can't get
into. Or waste the players time trying to find keys, ropes, etc. (i.e.
solve puzzles) that don't exist.

Does anyone have any wisdom in this area? How to make the setting look
real without making the player explore lots of window dressing?

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
Toto, I don't think we're online anymore...

Stephen Granade

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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In article <GVXNywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
D. Cravens) writes:
> The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
> gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
> makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

You have to strike a happy medium, perhaps leaning towards the "fewer
rooms than there ought to be."

I may not be the best authority on this subject--I tend to enjoy games
with lots and lots of irrelevant detail. This works better in some games
than in others; part of Planetfall's success with me was due to the many
empty rooms in the complex. It reinforced the feeling that I was the only
person around in a complex that was designed for many, many more people.

> Now I could put bars on the windows of the Bank and Wells-Fargo office
> and lock the doors... you can look, but you can't touch. But it's not
> likely that I can through in the Hotel without the player wanting to
> explore every square inch of it. (Collapse the stairs leading to the
> rooms, eh?)

I would make most of the non-essential buildings decorations--the player
can look at them and get a more detailed description, but s/he can't
otherwise interact with them. For areas of the Hotel which are not
necessary and don't add significantly to the game ("Oh, look, _another_
empty hallway with ten locked doors leading to rooms! I can't wait to
explore the _next_ four stories!"), I would mention additional hallways
&c. in the room descriptions, but then make movement in their direction
result in an "That area has no bearing on the story" sort of message.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_

ct

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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In article <5149i7$g...@newsgate.duke.edu>,

Stephen Granade <sgra...@grumpy.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>In article <GVXNywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
>D. Cravens) writes:
>> The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
>> gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
>> makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

>("Oh, look, _another_

>empty hallway with ten locked doors leading to rooms! I can't wait to
>explore the _next_ four stories!")

Or, you could go for the Snowball approach to 'hey, where _is_ everybody?'
with its 6500+ locations, all different, containing 1800 mortuaries each
containing 1000 people (Ahem, apart from you. You've buggered up the pretty
pattern by walking off).

regards, ct


George Caswell

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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On Tue, 10 Sep 1996, Carl D. Cravens wrote:

> I've got another dilemma in writing my game. Let's give an example...
>
> In Planetfall, the character explores a lost colony complex which has
> been abandoned for years. Obviously, a complex must have sleeping
> areas, sanitary facilities, a mess area, a rec area, etc. etc. etc. And
> Planetfall contained all of these... six bathrooms, four dorm rooms, two
> rec rooms, an empty annex room, several sections of empty hall, etc.
> none of which had anything to do with the game except to provide a
> "realistic" feel.
>

> The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
> gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
> makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"
>

> My game is set in a ghost town... obviously, there have to be a certain
> number of buildings there. Even throwing in a fire that destroyed the
> residental portion of town (it's reason for becoming a ghost town, when
> everyone moved on) Main street still has a lot of buildings that I'm not
> sure I can (or want to) make useful, but if they're not there they might
> be an empty gap. Sure, I can leave out the Wells-Fargo office and
> only the history buff will notice, and I might get away without a
> Druggist's shop, but leave out the Bank or Post Office as well and
> people might notice.
>
> Now Planetfall could have gotten away with moving a lot of that out of
> the game. An elevator or locked door labeled "Dormitory and Recreation"
> that the player can never get through would suffice to eliminate a large
> number of rooms. (And it's not like the author had anything against
> areas you could never get into.) Then just shortening some hallways (I
> don't think an empty hall should *ever* be more than one "room," no
> matter how long it is, unless it serves some game function) and
> eliminating/consolidating useless rooms would have gone a long way.
>

If you don't want to implement it, make it unreachable (the bulk of the
world is unreachable in the beginning of Sorcerer because of the guard
Nymph at the door...)... if you don't want to make it unreachable, make
it a danger. The one thought that springs to mind for a ghost town is
making the buildings rot and fall apart. A building could 'appear' unsafe
to enter, and have you fall down to the basement (if applicable, else have
it fall down on you) if you enter. Or the building could have already
collapsed-- so if you have a two- or three- story building, you could do
that, and just leave the empty husk-o-building there... things like that.
I'd personally recommend if you need to take out a large number of rooms
or buildings, have the events be related...

> But I don't want to create too many areas that the player can't get
> into. Or waste the players time trying to find keys, ropes, etc. (i.e.
> solve puzzles) that don't exist.
>

Hmmmm.. dunno...

....T...I...M...B...U...K...T...U... ____________________________________
________________ _/>_ _______......[George Caswell, CS '99. 4 more info ]
<___ ___________// __/<___ /......[ http://www.wpi.edu/~timbuktu ]
...//.<>._____..<_ >./ ____/.......[ Member LnL+SOMA, sometimes artist, ]
..//./>./ /.__/ /./ <___________.[writer, builder. Sysadmin of adamant]
.//.</.</</</.<_ _/.<_____________/.[____________________________________]
</.............</...................


Mark Musante

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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Stephen Granade (sgra...@grumpy.phy.duke.edu) wrote:
> In article <GVXNywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
> D. Cravens) writes:
> > The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
> > gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
> > makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"
>
> I would make most of the non-essential buildings decorations--the player
> can look at them and get a more detailed description, but s/he can't
> otherwise interact with them. For areas of the Hotel which are not
> necessary and don't add significantly to the game ("Oh, look, _another_
> empty hallway with ten locked doors leading to rooms! I can't wait to
> explore the _next_ four stories!"), I would mention additional hallways
> &c. in the room descriptions, but then make movement in their direction
> result in an "That area has no bearing on the story" sort of message.

Another option would be, when the player attempts to go somewhere you
decided to leave out, a message along the lines of: "You enter the
hotel and wander around a bit. You find nothing that strikes your
fancy, and step out again."

This also gives the opportunity for more amusing messages as the
player persists on entering the "forbidden zone."

- Mark

Patrick Kellum

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
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On 10-Sep-96 06:03:50, Carl D. Cravens was hanging out in rec.arts.int-fiction.
For some reason he was chating about How to avoid lots of empty rooms?

> The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are
> gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
> makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

That's interesting, I personally prefer lots of empty rooms. I've always
found that exploring was much more fun then working on yet another puzzle :)

Patrick
----------------------------------------------.
"They say you're beautiful |
And they'll always let you in | Dio,
But doors are never open | All The Fools Sailed Away
To the child without a trace of sin" |
----------------------------------------------'
The Darkwolf's Ohm Page: http://www.otn.net/mypage/kellum/

My mind is like a book. Unfortunately, the pages are blank.


Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
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On 10 Sep 1996 17:46:47 GMT, sgra...@grumpy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) wrote:
>I may not be the best authority on this subject--I tend to enjoy games
>with lots and lots of irrelevant detail. This works better in some games
>than in others; part of Planetfall's success with me was due to the many
>empty rooms in the complex. It reinforced the feeling that I was the only
>person around in a complex that was designed for many, many more people.

Planetfall failed to immerse me to that point. I was disappointed in
that. Plus Floyd ran counter to that mood... his humor bordered on
annoying. In any case, I never got that "exploring a huge, abandonded
complex" feeling. Better prose might have helped.

>I would make most of the non-essential buildings decorations--the player
>can look at them and get a more detailed description, but s/he can't

[...snip...]


>&c. in the room descriptions, but then make movement in their direction
>result in an "That area has no bearing on the story" sort of message.

I've always had a problem with "you don't want to go that way" control.
I can handle "The undergrowth is too thick for you to pass" or "The
desert stretches on for miles in that direction" or even "Your uncle's
house is the other way and you're supposed to be visiting your uncle."
I don't like being told that I cannot search an interesting-looking area
because it doesn't have any bearing on the story. It breaks my
suspension of disbelief when the game effectively tells me "that's not
real, it's just scenery." But on the flipside, my SOD is broken by that
scenery not being there at all as well.

At first, I tend to want to create "realistic" barriers... locked doors,
etc. But that "happy medium" sometimes becomes unhappy when locked
doors, unspanned chasms, and other physically unreachable areas become
red herrings, causing the player to spend more time searching for a way
into the "scenery" than if he were allowed to explore the scenery in the
first place.

How would you react to entering a place and being told....

"After exploring the abandoned house, and finding nothing but empty rooms,
cobwebs and dust, you return to the street."

A little better than "Don't bother going in there, you won't find
anything." The player was shown to have "explored" the place, but it
took no more time than being told not to bother.

How about we try this with Planetfall... let's wrap the dorms up into a
single room.

"Shortly upon entering this room, you find yourself walking almost on
tiptoe to avoid the echoes which seem disturbing in this large area.
Surrounding you on all sides, extending into the darkness, you see row
upon row of bunks, all neatly made, all eerily empty. You pick up the
pace and quickly exit on the other side."

(My prose might need a little work.) You could probably extend this
idea into a hallway with all the bunk rooms extending off of it... doing
as above and making it obvious to the player that he doesn't get to stop
and look around without coming right out and saying "Don't bother to
look around, it's not important."

Going back to the house, I would then be tempted to throw a clue in
later in the game that essentially says, "Go to the House, and pull up
the floorboards in the NW corner of the kitchen... there you will find
the murder weapon." It's kind of like the "Here are 500 student
mailboxes, but you've forgotten which is yours." and not allowing the
player to try to open ANY of them until gaining that knowledge. (No
trial and error puzzle solving.) Would this be unfair, to make what was
described as 'scenery' suddenly be part of the puzzle, letting the
player do something he was not allowed to do earlier because he would
have had no *reason* do to it earlier?

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
Hey, you work at McDonalds, you can afford it!

Stephen Granade

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
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In article <YtwNywIeE/eG0...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
D. Cravens) writes:
> On 10 Sep 1996 17:46:47 GMT, sgra...@grumpy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen
Granade) wrote:
> >I would make most of the non-essential buildings decorations--the
> >player can look at them and get a more detailed description, but s/he
> >can't
> [...snip...]
> >&c. in the room descriptions, but then make movement in their direction
> >result in an "That area has no bearing on the story" sort of message.
>
> I've always had a problem with "you don't want to go that way" control.
> I can handle "The undergrowth is too thick for you to pass" or "The
> desert stretches on for miles in that direction" or even "Your uncle's
> house is the other way and you're supposed to be visiting your uncle."
> I don't like being told that I cannot search an interesting-looking area
> because it doesn't have any bearing on the story. It breaks my
> suspension of disbelief when the game effectively tells me "that's not
> real, it's just scenery." But on the flipside, my SOD is broken by that
> scenery not being there at all as well.

I have the exact opposite reaction. To a point I can handle obstacles in
my path, more so if they make sense. If I'm at the base of, say, Pike's
Peak, I won't be surprised if I can't walk in its direction. Or if I'm in
an old-growth forest, again I won't feel too bad if a game says that
undergrowth blocks my passage. This becomes much more strained, however,
in most buildings. "The piles of Cheerio boxes prevents you" becomes a bit
ludicrous after a while.

> At first, I tend to want to create "realistic" barriers... locked doors,
> etc. But that "happy medium" sometimes becomes unhappy when locked
> doors, unspanned chasms, and other physically unreachable areas become
> red herrings, causing the player to spend more time searching for a way
> into the "scenery" than if he were allowed to explore the scenery in the
> first place.

This is why I advocate the "That has no bearing on the story."

> How would you react to entering a place and being told....
>
> "After exploring the abandoned house, and finding nothing but empty
> rooms, cobwebs and dust, you return to the street."
>
> A little better than "Don't bother going in there, you won't find
> anything." The player was shown to have "explored" the place, but it
> took no more time than being told not to bother.

Depends. If a game tells me straight out, "Don't bother..." I'll be more
upset than being told "That has no bearing on the story." Prose can help
smooth over design limitations.

Robin Lionheart

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
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> Or the building could have already
> collapsed-- so if you have a two- or three- story building, you could do
> that, and just leave the empty husk-o-building there... things like that.
> I'd personally recommend if you need to take out a large number of rooms
> or buildings, have the events be related...

Or perhaps a large portion of the ghost town burned down in a fire
before the fire brigade could put it out. Maybe one side of the street
was in the path of a twister. All sorts of disasters possible.

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
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On Tue, 10 Sep 1996 20:52:15 -0400, George Caswell <timb...@adamant.res.wpi.edu> wrote:
>I'd personally recommend if you need to take out a large number of rooms
>or buildings, have the events be related...

I've already burnt most of the town down... only the Main Street area
survives.

Has anyone run into this problem before? Your story isn't about places
or exploration, it's about a series of events that could, technically,
be carried out in a single room, yet still carry a literary impact?

>> But I don't want to create too many areas that the player can't get
>> into. Or waste the players time trying to find keys, ropes, etc. (i.e.
>> solve puzzles) that don't exist.
>>
> Hmmmm.. dunno...

Do you think it beneficial to run the player in circles for awhile,
looking for objects that are implied to exist, but don't, to get into
areas that look promising, but are really just window dressing?

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
If at first you don't succeed, try 2nd or shortstop.

Andrew Clover

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Sep 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/14/96
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pat...@otn.net (Patrick Kellum) wrote:

> That's interesting, I personally prefer lots of empty rooms. I've
> always found that exploring was much more fun then working on yet
> another puzzle :)

To some extent, but lots of rooms with absolutely nothing to do in them
becomes very dull. Many early 8-bit games suffered badly from this, in the
clamour to advertise themselves as having 2 million rooms.

The trick, I think, is to keep the scope of exploration either narrow or
well-structured, so that even if there are lots of rooms they are arranged
in a way such that you don't get new-room overload. Many old games are an
example of this, where you start in the middle of a field and can go in all
eight directions, all leading to different rooms where one can also go in
many directions. Without some good structure to the map, exploring can
become a tedious exercise in trying to visit all the rooms to check if
there's anything in them, trying to keep track of where in the map you've
been and where you have yet to reach.

Personally I prefer to tackle an adventure without making a map on paper at
all. A good game should in my opinion have a map strong enough to build
itself in my mind whilst I play without aid of boxes and lines. Even games
like A Mind Forever Voyaging (which I just got around to playing properly
t'other day) where one is unleashed upon a large map not populated with
locked doors can be played this way if care is taken with the placing of
consistent geography. (AMFV also had the town plan in its packaging, which
helped to give you an idea of the layout of the map before you played it.)

BCNU, AjC, who seems to be in verbose mode today :-)

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/14/96
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On 12 Sep 1996 18:07:13 GMT, sgra...@dopey.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) wrote:
>I have the exact opposite reaction. To a point I can handle obstacles in
>my path, more so if they make sense. If I'm at the base of, say, Pike's
>Peak, I won't be surprised if I can't walk in its direction. Or if I'm in
>an old-growth forest, again I won't feel too bad if a game says that
>undergrowth blocks my passage. This becomes much more strained, however,
>in most buildings. "The piles of Cheerio boxes prevents you" becomes a bit
>ludicrous after a while.

No, you're having basically the same reaction that I am at this point.
Realistic physical barriers don't bother me. Arbitrary barriers
enforced by the 'story' do... when nothing stops me from walking down a
hallway but the story telling me that I don't need to.

>Depends. If a game tells me straight out, "Don't bother..." I'll be more
>upset than being told "That has no bearing on the story." Prose can help
>smooth over design limitations.

It's a problem. When I first start playing an adventure, I feel like
I'm in a wide, open space. As the game progresses, walls are built
around me... the game-space becomes smaller and smaller. When I near
the end, if that space has gotten *too* small, the game starts to become
unenjoyable. That's one place where Planetfall did succeed for me...
even though three-quarters of the rooms could have been thrown out, all
those empty rooms kept me from feeling like I was in a totally artifical
environment. Some games feel like I'm in a 10x10 room with all the
walls painted to look like I'm outdoors. (In a sense, that's what IF is
trying to do.) Sometimes the game manages to pull it off, sometimes it
doesn't... but one of the things that kills it is the game coming right
out and telling me that "This is a painted wall, move along, there's
nothing to see here."

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
You can tell the nature of a man by the words he chooses.
-Dr. Ed Cole

BPD

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Sep 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/15/96
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rave...@southwind.net (Carl D. Cravens) wrote:

>I've got another dilemma in writing my game. Let's give an example...

>In Planetfall, the character explores a lost colony complex which has
>been abandoned for years. Obviously, a complex must have sleeping
>areas, sanitary facilities, a mess area, a rec area, etc. etc. etc. And
>Planetfall contained all of these... six bathrooms, four dorm rooms, two
>rec rooms, an empty annex room, several sections of empty hall, etc.
>none of which had anything to do with the game except to provide a
>"realistic" feel.

>The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are


>gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
>makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

>My game is set in a ghost town... obviously, there have to be a certain


>number of buildings there. Even throwing in a fire that destroyed the
>residental portion of town (it's reason for becoming a ghost town, when
>everyone moved on) Main street still has a lot of buildings that I'm not
>sure I can (or want to) make useful, but if they're not there they might
>be an empty gap. Sure, I can leave out the Wells-Fargo office and
>only the history buff will notice, and I might get away without a
>Druggist's shop, but leave out the Bank or Post Office as well and
>people might notice.

>Now Planetfall could have gotten away with moving a lot of that out of
>the game. An elevator or locked door labeled "Dormitory and Recreation"
>that the player can never get through would suffice to eliminate a large
>number of rooms. (And it's not like the author had anything against
>areas you could never get into.) Then just shortening some hallways (I
>don't think an empty hall should *ever* be more than one "room," no
>matter how long it is, unless it serves some game function) and
>eliminating/consolidating useless rooms would have gone a long way.

>Now I could put bars on the windows of the Bank and Wells-Fargo office


>and lock the doors... you can look, but you can't touch. But it's not
>likely that I can through in the Hotel without the player wanting to
>explore every square inch of it. (Collapse the stairs leading to the
>rooms, eh?)

>But I don't want to create too many areas that the player can't get


>into. Or waste the players time trying to find keys, ropes, etc. (i.e.
>solve puzzles) that don't exist.

>Does anyone have any wisdom in this area? How to make the setting look
>real without making the player explore lots of window dressing?

>--
>Carl (rave...@southwind.net)


>Toto, I don't think we're online anymore...

I just faced a similar problem in my IF contest entry. The game is
set in a decrepit old mansion and if I made it as big as a mid-1600s
era manor house should be, the player would spend a ridiculous amount
of time rattling around inside looking for something more interesting
then yet another dusty and barren guest room.

I compromised by including all the rooms that such a house would need
to have to seem "complete" but left out some locations that would
serve no purpose at all. I had one betatester remark that it was a
pretty small mansion but nobody seems to be having the sense of the
place distrupted by its size. I'd rather have somebody thinking idly
that the place might be a touch bigger then have them yawning from the
non-thrill of wandering across too much empty space.


Laurel Halbany

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Sep 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/17/96
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rave...@southwind.net (Carl D. Cravens) wrote:

>Do you think it beneficial to run the player in circles for awhile,
>looking for objects that are implied to exist, but don't, to get into
>areas that look promising, but are really just window dressing?

I find that a little annoying when it's done to extremes; of course
you want to have some red herrings, but think of "empty" rooms as
having more value than just being containers for objects. An "empty"
room can add atmosphere, give information (rather than Stuff), that
kind of thing.

----------------------------------------------------------
Laurel Halbany
myt...@agora.rdrop.com
http://www.rdrop.com/users/mythago/


PAZ SALGADO

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Sep 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/17/96
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Patrick Kellum (pat...@otn.net) wrote:

: On 10-Sep-96 06:03:50, Carl D. Cravens was hanging out in rec.arts.int-fiction.


: For some reason he was chating about How to avoid lots of empty rooms?

: > The problem comes in exploring. When half the rooms in the game are


: > gratuitous fluff, the game becomes boring. But leaving out these rooms
: > makes things odd... "Hey, where did everyone sleep?"

: That's interesting, I personally prefer lots of empty rooms. I've always


: found that exploring was much more fun then working on yet another puzzle :)

I agree, but the rooms should not be JUST EMPTY. I mean, I like explore
lots of rooms with little clues and pretty descriptions.

Meliton Rodriguez at TimesSquare/5644


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