Simulated output as a design method

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Jason Noble

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Jan 10, 1994, 12:49:20 AM1/10/94
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Hi all. Beware, long post alert.

The idea that I'm talking about in this post may be blindingly obvious and
maybe everyone already does what I'm about to suggest. But anyway, here
goes:

Something I think anyone writing a text-based IF game should do is sit down
early on in the development, and write a few pages of *simulated output*.
By this I mean writing out manually a section of game activity, including
player input and computer response.

It seems to me that this forces you to think about playability, as opposed
to some fancy programming construct that you might want to squeeze in.

I've included a long piece of simulated output (for a game I have no
intention of writing) that might show what I mean. If you read this output,
notice the way interaction with other characters is handled, as well as a
few details concerning movement. I'm not saying this would be a
particularly stimulating game (but it would be a damn sight better than some
of the stinkers floating around). What I am saying is that using simulated
output as a method may result in the programmer / author bravely attempting
to handle the piece of interactive fiction in a new way. For example, in
the extract that follows, I tried to get around the old "n, s, e, w"
drudgery, and tried to simulate the effect of chasing someone through
unfamiliar passages.

Anyway, have a read and see what you think. Comments welcome, as are
responses to my earlier post about the ALAN system. Please reply to
jno...@bunyip.bhs.mq.edu.au. Thanks.

------------------------------------------------------------
SIMULATED OUTPUT FOLLOWS
------------------------------------------------------------


You're just inside the mouth of a long dark tunnel that cuts
its way through the rock. The walls are wet and slimy with
moss. Ahead of you, the tunnel stretches into darkness.

> draw sword

Your sword requires two hands to wield. You'd have to do
something about the lantern you're carrying.

> give lantern to Brian

Brian takes the lantern.

Guido complains that he'd rather be at home, just as a gust of
wind blows down the tunnel.

> draw sword

You draw the two-handed long sword.

"Ready for action, eh?", says Brian.

> go forward

The three of you proceed down the tunnel. It's clearly not a
natural formation: dead straight and roughly arch-shaped. The
walls are of rough-hewn granite or something similar. The
tunnel seems to open out up ahead.

> look back

You can see a small circle of light at the end of the tunnel.

> smell

You can't smell anything in particular, but you notice the
chill and the moisture of the underground air.

Guido blows his nose on his sleeve.

> status, detailed

You're holding in your hands: a two-handed long sword

You're carrying: a 50' coil of rope
a backpack (inside the backpack is a
tinderbox, 3 oil-flasks, 5.3 days rations,
a water-skin, a steel box (inside the
steel box there is a map) and a crucifix)
a scabbard for a two-handed sword

You're wearing: a tunic
denim trousers
a belt (attached to the belt is a money
pouch (inside the money pouch is 25 gold
pieces))
soft leather boots
a velvet cloak

You're a little fatigued and you're a little thirsty.

> go forward

The tunnel opens out into a room. It's a square chamber cut
out of the rock, with a ceiling about 15' high. To your left
and right there are heavy oak doors, both of them closed.
Ahead of you, the tunnel continues. The floor is littered
with dirt and sticks.

Guido says "Are you sure we should be doing this?".

> look at Guido

Guido is a short man with a pot belly and a receding hairline.
He looks about 40, but you know he's only 25. He seems very
nervous.

Right now he's holding a staff and a silver dagger, and he's
carrying a backpack.

> ask Guido to give me the silver dagger

Guido mutters something indistinct about how selfish you are,
but he hands you the silver dagger. Your hands are full at
the moment, so you'd better put it somewhere.

Brian looks idly about the room.

> put dagger in backpack

You put the silver dagger into your backpack.

> ask Guido to stay here

"No way!", Guido protests, "What if you don't come back?".

> command Guido to stay here

Guido reluctantly agrees to stay. "But hurry back!", he adds.

From the tunnel ahead of you comes a distant echoing scream.
Guido shivers and says "Maybe we should all just go home".

> ask Brian to search room

Brian pokes around in the sticks and dirt on the floor, but he
doesn't find anything.

> listen at the door

There are two doors, one to your left and one to your right.
Which one do you mean?

>>> left

You press your ear to the heavy wooden door, but you can't
hear anything from the other side.

> exits

The tunnel continues ahead of you and behind you. There are
doors to your left and to your right.

> go forward

"I'll see you soon", says Guido nervously.

You and Brian advance down the tunnel. You come to a point
where the tunnel widens slightly. There is a flight of stairs
to your left, going down. The tunnel continues ahead.

> look back

The tunnel opens out into a room. Guido is standing there,
holding a torch.

> encourage Guido

You call out to Guido, and he waves feebly in response.

> go down the stairs

The two of you head down the stairs. They are narrow and
steep, and they curve around to the right. You come to the
bottom of the stairs and find yourselves in a narrow passage.
There in front of you is a hideously ugly creature. It looks
vaguely human, but has very pale skin, almost white, and wispy
tufts of white hair. It stands about four feet tall, and it's
holding an axe. The creature is not wearing any clothes, and
right now it's eyeing you warily.

> parley with creature

You try a few calming words, but the creature just looks at
you and blinks. It's not clear whether it understands you.

"I wonder what it is?", muses Brian.

> wait

With surprising speed, the creature suddenly turns around and
runs off into the darkness.

> chase creature

You and Brian run after the creature, along the narrow
passage. You can see the creature ahead of you. You pass a
side passage to the left, and then a door on the right. You
are close behind the creature. The passage leads into a huge
open space, a natural cavern of some sort. You are now close
enough to tackle or attack the creature.

> kill

You swing your sword at the creature, striking it in the back.
Brian attacks with his hammer, and crushes the creature's
skull. Bleeding profusely, the creature falls to the ground.

> look at creature

It's an ugly humanoid creature about 4 feet high, with very
pale skin and tufts of white hair. Right now it's lying
unconscious on the ground, and appears to be mortally wounded.
There is an axe by its side.

"Well, we certainly showed him", says Brian.

> ask Brian about creature

"I've got no idea", says Brian.

The creature makes a horrible gurgling noise in its throat,
twitches for a bit, then dies.

> look around

You are at one end of a huge natural cavern. The roof arches
to a point some eighty or ninety feet above, and there are
large boulders strewn about. The main space of the cavern is
off to your left, and you can faintly make out the far wall in
the light of the lantern. Behind you a narrow passage has
been excavated into the rock.

Brian pauses to hitch up his backpack.

> shout

Your voice echoes around the chamber, but no-one responds.

> examine axe

The axe is of shoddy manufacture, and seems to have been
repaired several times. It looks like it was designed more
for chopping wood than fighting.

> time

It's hard to tell underground, but you think it's late
afternoon. The date is Friday the 12th of January. By this
reckoning, you have 3 days to find the Princess Amber before
she is executed.

> exits

The cavern continues to your left. There is a narrow passage
behind you. The many large boulders might conceal further
exits.

Brian takes a drink from his waterskin.

> go forward

The two of you climb up amongst the boulders. It is hard
going, and there are many cracks and crevices. Off to your
left, something glints in the light from Brian's lantern.

> search cracks and crevices

You and Brian root around in the cracks and crevices beneath
the boulders, but all you find is dirt, small rocks and bat
guano.

> get dirt

Do you really want to pick up a handful of dirt?

>>> no

> go left

You scramble across the boulders. You come across a small
iron pot filled with gold coins!

The cavern continues ahead of you. You can see a bridge
crossing a deep ravine in the cavern floor. Down to your left
is a relatively open space, and to your right there is a pool
of very still, clear water in a natural alcove.

"We're rich!", exclaims Brian.

> count coins

You count the coins. This takes some time, and you are only
part way through when you hear a rumbling noise from far ahead
of you. Do you want to keep going?

>>> yes

You count the coins. There are 120 gold pieces.

> take coins

You'll have to put your sword down before you can scoop up the
coins.

> drop sword

You put your sword down on the ground.

> get coins

You scoop up the coins.

There is another rumbling noise from somewhere ahead of you,
louder this time.

> give 60 coins to Brian

"Thanks", says Brian, taking the 60 coins from you.

> put coins in money pouch

You place the 60 gold pieces into your money pouch.

> get sword

You pick up the two-handed long sword.

Brian says "This place makes me nervous".

> down

You and Brian climb down over the boulders to the floor of the
cavern. The huge chamber continues to your left and to your
right. Over to your right, you can see that there is a deep
ravine bisecting the cavern, spanned by a rickety wooden
bridge.

A disgusting sulphurous smell fills the air, and the rumbling
sound occurs again, this time much closer. With a beating of
leathery wings, something very large and reptilian rises from
the ravine. Your view is obscured by clouds of foul smoke.

> run to the left

The two of you run to one end of the cavern. The corpse of
the ugly humanoid creature lies here. A terrible roar echoes
around the cavern.

"Let's get out of here!", says Brian.

> run right

You run down a narrow passage.

> look around

You and Brian are standing in a narrow passage cut through the
rock. The passage continues in front of you. Behind you, it
opens out into a large space. To your left is a heavy oak
door set into the wall. The door is shut.

You feel quite thirsty.

"Did you see the size of that thing?", asks Brian.

> greet Brian

You say hello to Brian. He looks a bit puzzled.

> insult Brian

Brian laughs, assuming that you're joking.

> forward

The two of you walk along the narrow passage. There is a side
tunnel going off to the right, and ahead of you the tunnel
continues.

> forward

You walk along the narrow passage. You are at the base of a
flight of stairs, leading up.

> up

You walk up the narrow flight of stairs. They curve around to
the left. At the top you find yourselves in a tunnel,
extending off to the left and to the right.

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