Carmen Devine Navigation Query

6 views
Skip to first unread message

Rob

unread,
Nov 17, 2006, 9:57:49 PM11/17/06
to
Firstly, thank you all for your kind and not-so-kind reviews. I was
aware of many of the deficiencies in my competition entry that many of
you picked up on, and considering the general polish of the games I
played, I'm surprisingly satisfied with my mid-table placement.

The game was heavily curtailed due to time-constraints, and if it fights
its way back up to the top of the pile in my works-in-progress, I'll
try and add some of that back in for a post-Competition release. But one
issue that affects not just it, but another game in development is the
status line compass rose.

A couple of reviewers liked it, as it saved potentially clunky lists of
exits in the room descriptions and cut down on the necessity to map the
game. But equally, there were reviewers that hated it, as it was right
up the top of the display and their focus was down the bottom where the
prompt was. One of my testers completely missed it for a large chunk of
play, so I knew going in it might be a problem.

But for the other game, up to the minute direction status is a
must-have. My initial plan was, like in Carmen, to provide it with the
status line, but I imagine the people who hated it in Carmen will
_really_ hate it when it updates every turn whether they move room or not.

A couple of other possibilities have occurred to me. Firstly, as a
prefix to the prompt - so the prompt might be "N? W+ S- >" with the
various notations explained in the about text. This sort of works as I
don't think I have a location with more than four exits so it wouldn't
get too bulky. Another possibility is to provide a compass rose to the
bottom left, much like the one in City Of Secrets. I could also,
theoretically, generate a block of text each turn describing the
changes, but at the moment it feels like it'd be very clunky.

So I wanted to throw this out there and see if anyone had any
suggestions for ways to handle this.

Regards
Rob

Maureen Mason

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 11:41:47 AM11/18/06
to
In article <ejlst...@news4.newsguy.com>, r...@culturalwilderness.com
says...

> A couple of reviewers liked it, as it saved potentially clunky lists of
> exits in the room descriptions and cut down on the necessity to map the
> game. But equally, there were reviewers that hated it, as it was right
> up the top of the display and their focus was down the bottom where the
> prompt was.

I liked the compass in the status bar. It did make me more lazy, though,
about visualizing the whole map, so it's not for every game. I'd like to
see a compass rose in games like Moon-Shaped, where it would help clue
the player that new areas of the map have opened up once you've
manipulate certain objects or triggered flashbacks.

> A couple of other possibilities have occurred to me. Firstly, as a
> prefix to the prompt - so the prompt might be "N? W+ S- >" with the
> various notations explained in the about text. This sort of works as I
> don't think I have a location with more than four exits so it wouldn't
> get too bulky. Another possibility is to provide a compass rose to the
> bottom left, much like the one in City Of Secrets.

My second choice is to have it in the bottom left corner, though in City
of Secrets that meant using up a whole column/margin on the side. The
N? W+ S- > solution would be annoying to me.

Good luck on your next game and/or sequel to Carmen Devine!

Maureen

d...@pobox.com

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 12:09:19 PM11/18/06
to

On Nov 18, 2:57 am, Rob <r...@culturalwilderness.com> wrote:
> But one
> issue that affects not just it, but another game in development is the
> status line compass rose.

I liked the compass rose, but I didn't like that you used it to remove
descriptions of exits from location descriptions. I'd like the option
to switch the rose off, and I'd like not to be blinded by doing that.
And, no, I don't think you should only add a description of exits when
the rose is switched off. Like you say, it's too easy to miss.

>
> A couple of other possibilities have occurred to me. Firstly, as a
> prefix to the prompt - so the prompt might be "N? W+ S- >" with the
> various notations explained in the about text.

Yukh. Sounds awful. Not having seen it in action of course. User
testing is the crucible of usability.

> This sort of works as I
> don't think I have a location with more than four exits so it wouldn't
> get too bulky. Another possibility is to provide a compass rose to the
> bottom left, much like the one in City Of Secrets.

Sounds reasonable to me. I think I crippled myself when playing CoS by
electing to play it in a port-a-potty wearing scratched up glasses, so
I'm not sure I ever saw the compass rose in that game.

If you want an excuse for it to take up so much room at the bottom of
the display you could add the PC's current form on there as well
(human/wolf). You mean your WIP doesn't involve shape-shifting?
Shame.

> I could also,
> theoretically, generate a block of text each turn describing the
> changes, but at the moment it feels like it'd be very clunky.

I guess that depends on the nature of the changes. If a door is
opening or closing, or the room is rotating, then I'd probably want to
know that.

drj

JDC

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 12:31:40 PM11/18/06
to

Rob wrote:
[apropos status line exit listing]

> A couple of reviewers liked it, as it saved potentially clunky lists of
> exits in the room descriptions and cut down on the necessity to map the
> game. But equally, there were reviewers that hated it, as it was right
> up the top of the display and their focus was down the bottom where the
> prompt was. One of my testers completely missed it for a large chunk of
> play, so I knew going in it might be a problem.

I thought this worked fine and I noticed it right away, but it is
definitely possible to miss these things (I entirely missed the status
line info in the second part of Delightful Wallpaper until reading
about it in a review, for instance). Here it was harder to miss since
the exits weren't listed in the text, so the first thing I did was look
at the status line.

One thing I would consider is how your game plays with a screenreader.
I'm not sure how screenreaders handle the status line (I've never used
one myself), but I would guess that it's pretty difficult to use a
compass rose with one. It's definitely a good idea to at least give the
player the option of seeing the exits in the main text.

-JDC

Rob

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 1:57:34 PM11/18/06
to
d...@pobox.com wrote:
> I liked the compass rose, but I didn't like that you used it to remove
> descriptions of exits from location descriptions. I'd like the option
> to switch the rose off, and I'd like not to be blinded by doing that.
> And, no, I don't think you should only add a description of exits when
> the rose is switched off. Like you say, it's too easy to miss.
>
Yes, I'm definitely including descriptions of exits. The
work-in-progress requires that the player easily navigate, as the PC is
supposed to be very familiar with the setting. The compass rose isn't
intended to be used for directions, it's supposed to be a sort of
head-up-display for the local environment.

>> A couple of other possibilities have occurred to me. Firstly, as a
>> prefix to the prompt - so the prompt might be "N? W+ S- >" with the
>> various notations explained in the about text.
>
> Yukh. Sounds awful. Not having seen it in action of course. User
> testing is the crucible of usability.
>

My biggest complaint with this solution is it looks completely horrible.
It does give all the necessary information to the player, but it's
rather too intrusive for my liking.

> If you want an excuse for it to take up so much room at the bottom of
> the display you could add the PC's current form on there as well
> (human/wolf). You mean your WIP doesn't involve shape-shifting?
> Shame.
>

No, there's no shape-shifting in this particular WIP. I've got a sequel
to Carmen in the early planning stages, and adding in status of the
player's current form would definitely be a sensible improvement for
that one.

>> I could also,
>> theoretically, generate a block of text each turn describing the
>> changes, but at the moment it feels like it'd be very clunky.
>
> I guess that depends on the nature of the changes. If a door is
> opening or closing, or the room is rotating, then I'd probably want to
> know that.
>

No, the geography is static, but the NPCs are fairly active, and the
player needs to know their locations. When they're visible to the PC,
there'll be textual descriptions of their activity, but there are
various occasions where the PC would know he may be entering
line-of-sight with an NPC that the player wouldn't initially know about.

Perhaps I could just provide a map as a feelie with the game to give the
player the same knowledge the PC has. But then it would force the player
to look at and refer to it which might be just as annoying as having to

look at the status line.

Really there needs to be an in-game interactive way for the player to
get the same information the PC has. The map's a little too broad for a
playable introduction to give a full lay-of-the-land, but maybe it can
show enough for the player to get the basic rules so that they can infer
the rest.

Regards
Rob

d...@pobox.com

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 2:51:08 PM11/18/06
to

On Nov 18, 6:57 pm, Rob <r...@culturalwilderness.com> wrote:

> No, the geography is static, but the NPCs are fairly active, and the
> player needs to know their locations. When they're visible to the PC,
> there'll be textual descriptions of their activity, but there are
> various occasions where the PC would know he may be entering
> line-of-sight with an NPC that the player wouldn't initially know about.
>

> Really there needs to be an in-game interactive way for the player to
> get the same information the PC has. The map's a little too broad for a
> playable introduction to give a full lay-of-the-land, but maybe it can
> show enough for the player to get the basic rules so that they can infer
> the rest.

What _are_ you doing? It sounds a bit crazy, like a squad based
tactical shooter but in the form of a text adventure. Rhetorical
question, I'm not really asking you to discuss your WIP.

drj

Rob

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 2:56:08 PM11/18/06
to
JDC wrote:
> Rob wrote:
> [apropos status line exit listing]
>> A couple of reviewers liked it, as it saved potentially clunky lists of
>> exits in the room descriptions and cut down on the necessity to map the
>> game. But equally, there were reviewers that hated it, as it was right
>> up the top of the display and their focus was down the bottom where the
>> prompt was. One of my testers completely missed it for a large chunk of
>> play, so I knew going in it might be a problem.
>
> I thought this worked fine and I noticed it right away, but it is
> definitely possible to miss these things (I entirely missed the status
> line info in the second part of Delightful Wallpaper until reading
> about it in a review, for instance). Here it was harder to miss since
> the exits weren't listed in the text, so the first thing I did was look
> at the status line.
>
Huh. I hadn't thought of that. So by including room exits in the room
descriptions, players would be even less likely to spot the status line
information.

> One thing I would consider is how your game plays with a screenreader.
> I'm not sure how screenreaders handle the status line (I've never used
> one myself), but I would guess that it's pretty difficult to use a
> compass rose with one. It's definitely a good idea to at least give the
> player the option of seeing the exits in the main text.
>

Hmmm. Yes, no idea how a screenreader would have handled Carmen. I'll
try not to leave them out in future, but I'm not sure how you describe
lines-of-sight in textual form - exits are easy, but for the particular
WIP where extra information is essential the descriptions could be
rather clunky, such as describing to the player that going down from
their current location will leave them visible to people in areas A and
B, while going west will leave them visible to people in area C.

Regards
Rob

Emily Short

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 6:40:16 PM11/18/06
to

Rob wrote:
> No, the geography is static, but the NPCs are fairly active, and the
> player needs to know their locations. When they're visible to the PC,
> there'll be textual descriptions of their activity, but there are
> various occasions where the PC would know he may be entering
> line-of-sight with an NPC that the player wouldn't initially know about.
>
> Perhaps I could just provide a map as a feelie with the game to give the
> player the same knowledge the PC has. But then it would force the player
> to look at and refer to it which might be just as annoying as having to
> look at the status line.
>
> Really there needs to be an in-game interactive way for the player to
> get the same information the PC has. The map's a little too broad for a
> playable introduction to give a full lay-of-the-land, but maybe it can
> show enough for the player to get the basic rules so that they can infer
> the rest.

This is beginning to sound like something where it would help to have a
persistent graphical window representing some of this information
(e.g., a map of the player's immediate environment, or something like
that, perhaps indicating where he is). Which gets away from the purity
of an all-text presentation, but I've seen it work in some cases. (Lock
and Key is a great example of a game where the text is fun but the
puzzle would have been impossibly annoying without the accompanying
diagram.)

But I'm just speculating at this point.

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 18, 2006, 7:19:50 PM11/18/06
to
Rob <r...@culturalwilderness.com> wrote:

> The game was heavily curtailed due to time-constraints, and if it fights
> its way back up to the top of the pile in my works-in-progress, I'll
> try and add some of that back in for a post-Competition release. But one
> issue that affects not just it, but another game in development is the
> status line compass rose.
>
> A couple of reviewers liked it, as it saved potentially clunky lists of
> exits in the room descriptions and cut down on the necessity to map the
> game. But equally, there were reviewers that hated it, as it was right
> up the top of the display and their focus was down the bottom where the
> prompt was. One of my testers completely missed it for a large chunk of
> play, so I knew going in it might be a problem.
>
> But for the other game, up to the minute direction status is a
> must-have. My initial plan was, like in Carmen, to provide it with the
> status line, but I imagine the people who hated it in Carmen will
> _really_ hate it when it updates every turn whether they move room or not.

Make sure up front that everybody knows that the game does this, and
that there's a real reason for it. That would at least explain why
you're doing it that way rather than rewrite the room description every
turn.

> A couple of other possibilities have occurred to me. Firstly, as a
> prefix to the prompt - so the prompt might be "N? W+ S- >" with the
> various notations explained in the about text.

That would be intrusive, IYAM.

Richard

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages