movement and directions in text adventure games

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Mikael

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Feb 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/15/00
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In most, if not all, text adventure games moving about means using
directions.
Using directions implies however that the player is familiar with them;
he or she knows where north, south and west are. If the game takes place
outdoors and the
sky is clear the player could use the sun as a point of reference making the
use of
directions feasible. But if the sky is clouded or the game takes place at
night using the
sun as a point of reference is rendered impossible.
If using directions outdoors is problematic using directions indoors is
often outright
silly. Let's say you're playing a game where the hero, Theseus, is supposed
to find and
slay the Minotaur in a labyrinth. Exiting the labyrinth is no problem, just
follow the
thread of garn given to you by Ariadne. But finding the monster is another
thing.
Asuming that Daedalus wasn't kind enough to leave direction marks when he
build the
labyrinth using directions is unfeasible.
Not only is the use of directions often inconsistent with the reality in
which the game
takes place, it is also inconsistent with everyday semantics. If a guest
asks you where
the bathroom is do you answer him "go north, then west and then north
again"?
One possible solution would be to equip the player with a compass. But what
if the game
takes place before the compass was invented (as in the example above) or the
player decides
to throw away the compass? Would that "paralyze" him?

But if using directions is unfeasible what other means of movement is there?
An
alternative would be to simply type "go bathroom" instead of
"north,west,north". It would
then be up to the program to find the shortest way to the bathroom. This
would mean that
the programmer would have to spend more time programming. Considering the
quality of
some of the text adventure games availible today that wouldn't be such a bad
idea.
This approach presupposes however that the player is familiar with the
surroundings; he/she
allready knows that there is a bathroom. But what if the player is exploring
unchartered
territory?

The reason why I'm asking these questions is that I'm writing a text
adventure game and
I have come to the point where I need a consistent and logical system for
movement.
I'm open for any suggestions.

Regards

Michael Lonc

Wild

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Feb 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/15/00
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>An alternative would be to simply type "go bathroom" instead of
>"north,west,north". It would
>then be up to the program to find the shortest way to the
bathroom. This would mean that
>the programmer would have to spend more time programming.
Considering the quality of
>some of the text adventure games availible today that wouldn't
>be such a bad idea.
>This approach presupposes however that the player is
>familiar with the surroundings; he/she
>allready knows that there is a bathroom. But what if the player
is exploring
>unchartered territory?

In Adventure Runner ( http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~jcw/adventure/
), you can do just that. You obviously can use the usual
directions, but if you say "goto bathroom", it will move you to
this room if you have been there before. It bases the names on
the short descriptions, and queries the name if could be more
than one room. You could also just look at the map, and click on
the room you want to go to. This can save a lot of time if you
want to go from A to B, as you don't have to remember every
direction between them.

>The reason why I'm asking these questions is that I'm writing a
text
>adventure game and
>I have come to the point where I need a consistent and logical
system for
>movement.

I used a depth-first search to determine the shortest path, but I
guess you could use anything.

Then again, why change what works...

Campbell


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Ronald Russell

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Feb 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/15/00
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I believe the reason that most text adventures use compass directions is
that they are invariant with regard to the location of the character or the
direction that the character is facing. North for you and I is the same
direction, regardless of where we are and which way we are facing. For
instance, if the character is facing a certain tree, and then moves east,
they will travel in the same direction as they would if they begin with
their back to the tree. To simply tell the character to travel to their left
would generate a different result depending on which direction the character
was facing, and this would be more confusing in playing a game. People
before the existence of magnetic compasses still knew the cardinal
directions, and managed to walk, ride, and sail all over the world. Perhaps
a game could have a random fog producer which would prevent the character
from being able to determine their direction, and so get lost occassionally.
Even if the character doesn't know the direction they are travelling, moving
north or some other direction in the fog will eventually lead them
somewhere. Perhaps they can recognize landmarks if they have been in the
area before. I can still find my way to work even in fog, because I know
which way the streets run and their position relative to each other. And
even in graphic games, if I am lost, sometimes by just wandering around I
find familiar ground again, even if I don't know how I arrived there.
To tell the character to "go to..." a certain location implies that they
know the existence of that location, and the way to reach it. But a lot of
the challenge in games is finding the route to areas you don't already know
about. So would it be more fun to say "go to Flood Control Dam #3", or to
hunt around until you find it?
I did like the feature in Myst, which allowed you to go instantly to
places you had visited before, without the intermediate steps, but I didn't
use it very much. However, a similar feature could be possible in
text-games.
Ron


David Welbourn

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Feb 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/15/00
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Mikael wrote:
>If using directions outdoors is problematic using directions indoors is
>often outright silly. [snip] If a guest asks you where

>the bathroom is do you answer him "go north, then west and then north
>again"?

No, I'd probably say something like "go down the hall, it's the last door on
your right". *sigh* I don't really see a problem with using directions in
a game, though. Games are, well, games, and can only be expected to model
the real world in a limited and very simplified way. Game mechanics
engender conventions, be it the compass directions in text adventures, or
hit points in RPGs. OTOH, it's certainly the gamemaker's perogative to
decide on how, and at what level, the game world approximates reality.

You could, I suppose, incorporate the PC's facing direction into game
world -- that is, the PC is always facing something of interest. Things are
either to the left, ahead, or to the right, or aren't visible. This would
require that you'd need to record internally where in the room things are
too, eg: its degree of arc from due north from where the PC is standing.
The PC's vision could see anything in say, 120 degrees of arc, perhaps less
in darker rooms. The player could use commands like "turn left", "turn
right", "turn around", or "turn to cabinet" to orient himself, and commands
like "left", "forward", "right", "go [through] door" to actually move. I'd
let "go" also mean to walk forward. It would also be a nice touch to have
the game auto-walk the PC to the kitchen when the player types "go to
kitchen" -- assuming that the PC has been to the kitchen before.

Not that this would be all that easy to implement, mind you. A bathroom
might be trivial, but what happens if you want a heavily wooded forest area,
with omnipresent mist, and two pits in the ground? If none of the trees or
mist is of directional interest, how can the PC orient? Answer is, you
_have_ to give the PC _something_ to face, even if its just scenery.
Dropping and throwing things gets trickier, too. Still, if you want to do
the work, I suppose it's possible.

-- David Welbourn


Mary J Mcmenomy

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Feb 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/15/00
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David Welbourn (d...@ionline.net) wrote:

: Mikael wrote:
: >If using directions outdoors is problematic using directions indoors is
: >often outright silly. [snip] If a guest asks you where
: >the bathroom is do you answer him "go north, then west and then north
: >again"?

: No, I'd probably say something like "go down the hall, it's the last door on
: your right". *sigh* I don't really see a problem with using directions in

Essentially I don't have a problem with the direction mode of travel
either. But if I were going to do it another way, I'd make all the exits
distinctive in some way, so that the player could type things like

>GO THROUGH YELLOW DOOR

or perhaps for brevity just

>YELLOW DOOR

IMHO this models reality about as closely as you could want to: when I'm
in a room, I recognize the exit I want to take and then I go through it.
Also, this approach neither requires the player to know where the door leads,
nor asks the computer to plot an 'appropriate' course between distant
locations. If you don't want to have your doors color-coded (which would
be rather silly in some contexts) you could number them or use some other
equivalent trick.

For outdoor locations this would get uglier; you'd either want to drop
back into using compass directions or else have some sort of landmark so
that the player could type, eg,

>GO TOWARDS MOUNTAINS

Trying to figure out which way the player is _facing_ is a lot of work,
and in the cases where I've seen it implemented, basically annoying from
the player's end as well.

--
Mary McMenomy
Department of Classical Studies
University of Pennsylvania

David Picton

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Feb 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/16/00
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In article <MCaq4.6494$al3....@newsc.telia.net>,

"Mikael" <018-4...@telia.com> wrote:
> In most, if not all, text adventure games moving about means using
> directions.
> Using directions implies however that the player is familiar with

them;
> he or she knows where north, south and west are.

I can think of one good reason for the use of this convention in
text games. It makes life easy for the player! The room layout can
be mapped out easily, and the directions are consistent so that going
north from (say) the bathroom will always take me to (say) the
bedroom.

Left/Right/Ahead/Back directions are possible, but have a disadvantage;
the player needs to know where he/she is facing. That would be easy
in a graphical adventure, but is rather tedious in a text adventure
where the player must rely on verbal descriptions.

There is certainly a place for 'goto kitchen' or 'go through blue door'
etc. But I would prefer this method of navigation to be used in
conjunction with the traditional compass directions, so that I can
still map the room layout.

--
David Picton
pict...@my-deja.com, da...@aps5.ph.bham.ac.uk


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Timo Korvola

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Feb 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/16/00
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"Mikael" <018-4...@telia.com> writes:

> An alternative would be to simply type "go bathroom" instead of
> "north,west,north". It would then be up to the program to find the
> shortest way to the bathroom. This would mean that the programmer
> would have to spend more time programming.

It would also mean that the player would have to spend more time
typing movement commands: in you example twelve characters instead of
five ("n.w.n").

This sort of a thing has been tried occasionally: I remember at least
Nord and Bert having an episode where room names were used for
movement and compass directions were not available. I think it only
had two rooms though.

"Suspended" on the other hand had the path finder. The map came with
the game and you could tell one of your robots to go to a named room.
The robot would get on its way and tell you when it got there or if
some problem arouse on the way. Meanwhile you could concentrate on
the other robots. If I recall correctly the map was treelike.

--
Timo Korvola <URL:http://www.iki.fi/tkorvola>

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