idea for text adventure user-interface

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Tom Alaerts

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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Hello,

while I discovered adventure games years ago playing zork on a apple 2,
in recent years i have grown to appreciate the lucasarts style of
interface. The first graphical adventure i played was indiana jones in
atlantis. I thought it was excellent and believe the user interface with
just a few words to click on wasn't limiting.
So, what do you people think of the idea of a text adventure with a
similar, reduced set of verbs?
I was actually thinking of making my first text adventure and using a
similar vocabulary. For example, instead of handling specific verbs like
"uncork" etc., you would be able to do everything with "use".
Curious what you think of it.

Tom Alaerts


Ola Sverre Bauge

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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Tom Alaerts wrote...

>in recent years i have grown to appreciate the lucasarts style of
>interface. The first graphical adventure i played was indiana jones in
>atlantis. I thought it was excellent and believe the user interface
>with just a few words to click on wasn't limiting.

>So, what do you people think of the idea of a text adventure with a
>similar, reduced set of verbs?

>I was actually thinking of making my first text adventure and using a
>similar vocabulary. For example, instead of handling specific verbs
>like "uncork" etc., you would be able to do everything with "use".
>Curious what you think of it.

Well, first of all, text adventures too do have a limited vocabulary,
though it's not as tight-fisted; the number of in-game verbs that Inform
recognizes "out of the box" runs to about 80, I think, and even though
authors are free to add verbs as the game warrants, I'd guess few text
adventures run up to more than... about 150(?)

I do like the old-style LA interface... for point-and-click adventures.
I think it offers a good compromise between depth of interaction and
ease of interface use - again, for graphic point-and-clicks. However,
for text adventures I'd say it would be a mistake to implement it.

...because, in text adventures, by implementing a large amount of verbs
you don't hamper the player by having to hunt through unnessecarily
large and clumsy menus, you simply increase the probability that s/he
will hit upon a phrasing that seems natural to him/her; this is the
forte of text adventures, IMO, in that a good parser can immerse the
player in the game without worrying about how to direct the character.

If you implemented a formulaic verb model, I for one would be bored to
death typing the same old phrasings over and over, and frustrated that I
wouldn't be able to express myself in a way I found natural; I'd try
'use bottle on me' and 'open bottle' *after* I tried 'uncork bottle',
because 'uncork bottle' seems more natural to me.

If you want your game to be easier for newcomers, I think the best
solution is to include instructions, try to think of lots of synonyms
and alternate phrasings, and try to make the problem the player is
supposed to solve clear to begin with, so the player will be challenged
by trying to figure out the problem, rather than by trying to figure out
what the problem is. Unless, of course, the problem is to figure out
what the problem is.

Ola Sverre Bauge
o...@bu.telia.no
http://w1.2327.telia.com/~u232700165

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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In article <35779945...@but.be>,

Tom Alaerts <to...@but.be> wrote:
>
> Hello,
>
> while I discovered adventure games years ago playing zork on a apple 2,
> in recent years i have grown to appreciate the lucasarts style of
> interface. The first graphical adventure i played was indiana jones in
> atlantis. I thought it was excellent and believe the user interface with
> just a few words to click on wasn't limiting.
> So, what do you people think of the idea of a text adventure with a
> similar, reduced set of verbs?
> I was actually thinking of making my first text adventure and using a
> similar vocabulary. For example, instead of handling specific verbs like
> "uncork" etc., you would be able to do everything with "use".
> Curious what you think of it.
>
> Tom Alaerts
>
>
Well, whatever anyone else says (and I don;t predict too many people being for
it) I think this is a good idea, and should be tried out.
I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to just "USE THE MICROCHIP ON THE
BOARD", instead of spending 20 minutes figuring out that I've got
to "HYPERFROMITZ THE CHIP TO THE BOARD"

One suggestion.... allow conventional grammar. How about something like this:
define a "default_action" for each object, which is executed on >USE OBJECT
This default action could well be such that it's the only verb you ever need
to use, but the alternatives would still be there, to quiet the naysayers.
in any case, I hope you do try this out

-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
http://www.dejanews.com/ Now offering spam-free web-based newsreading

michael...@ey.com

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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In article <35779945...@but.be>,
Tom Alaerts <to...@but.be> wrote:
>
> Hello,
>
> while I discovered adventure games years ago playing zork on a apple 2,
> in recent years i have grown to appreciate the lucasarts style of
> interface. The first graphical adventure i played was indiana jones in
> atlantis. I thought it was excellent and believe the user interface with
> just a few words to click on wasn't limiting.
> So, what do you people think of the idea of a text adventure with a
> similar, reduced set of verbs?
> I was actually thinking of making my first text adventure and using a
> similar vocabulary. For example, instead of handling specific verbs like
> "uncork" etc., you would be able to do everything with "use".
> Curious what you think of it.
>

Good idea, perhaps, for graphics-based adventures; bad idea, I think, for text
based.

Here's my own personal gripe -- one of the charms of any text adventure game
is its use of language as an interface. The wide variety of verbs and
phraseology available to the player perpetuates the illusion that the player
is "communicating" with the story, and that the story is responding to the
player. We all know that that's not what's really going on, of course, but a
flexible and versatile parser allows us to suspend our disbelief.

When you restrict the parser -- when you force the player to abstract the
language -- you break that bubble of disbelief. There's no sense of
communication. The game is reduced to a panel of buttons -- a button labelled
"Take", a button labelled "Drop", a button labelled "Examine" -- and the
player is reduced to simply figuring out what sequence to push them in.

Let's take a look at the word "use", for example. "Use" is about as abstract
as it gets. It renders moot the entire issue of language -- it makes almost
any verb unnecessary. USE COAT (wear it). USE BANANA (eat it). USE SWORD
(whack the nearest enemy with it). USE BOX (open it if it's closed, close it
if it's open). There's no real need to draw the line anywhere -- a perfectly
logical extrapolation would be to type USE QUEST (win it) at the very
beginning of the game and have done with it.

Like somebody else on this thread noted, I'll type OPEN BOTTLE, UNCORK BOTTLE,
PULL CORK or a hundred other variations before it occurs to me to USE BOTTLE.
(Besides, what if I wanted to USE the bottle by smashing it over a guard's
head? or weighing down a stack of papers? or sticking a message into it and
tossing it into the ocean?) These are natural responses, communicating through
language.

If you're designing a text adventure, grit your teeth and start making a list
of verbs. Your game will be much more enjoyable.

--M.

Ola Sverre Bauge

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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L. Ross Raszewski wrote...

>Tom Alaerts <to...@but.be> wrote:
>> I was actually thinking of making my first text adventure and using a
>> similar vocabulary. For example, instead of handling specific verbs
>> like "uncork" etc., you would be able to do everything with "use".
>> Curious what you think of it.

>Well, whatever anyone else says (and I don;t predict too many people


>being for it) I think this is a good idea, and should be tried out.
>I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to just "USE THE MICROCHIP
>ON THE BOARD", instead of spending 20 minutes figuring out
>that I've got to "HYPERFROMITZ THE CHIP TO THE BOARD"

The synonym that springs foremost to my mind here is >weld chip to
board. Of course, other stuff that would have to be allowed would be
>attach microchip to board with welder, and so on... I don't think
adding >use microchip on board would be required in this instance, nor
do I think it would have been the first phrasing to spring to my mind.

The problem outlined above is one of guess-the-verb, which should be
eliminated by refining and expanding on the parser, not by simplifying
it. If refining and expanding means adding the word 'use' where
appropriate, go for it. If you mean simplifying the parser to
understand only the word 'use' for most actions, no thanks.

>One suggestion.... allow conventional grammar. How about something
>like this: define a "default_action" for each object, which is executed
>on >USE OBJECT This default action could well be such that it's
>the only verb you ever need to use, but the alternatives would still
>be there, to quiet the naysayers. in any case, I hope you do try this
>out

And in fact, there's a contributed Inform library at GMD that adds some
of this functionality... You *are* the modest poster, aren't you DX?

Ola Sverre Bauge
o...@bu.telia.no
http://w1.2327.telia.com/~u23700165

I will *not* make an awful pun about 'knights who say nay'. I will NOT
make an awful pun about 'knights who say nay'. I will *NOT*...

A. DeLisle

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Jun 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/5/98
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When you remove the text, you do not have a text adventure any more.
I have decided not to bother with commercial graphic games again.
I just gave up on Shivers that has one cursor that shapes itself
into arrows to indicate possible directions. After spending an hour
trying to get to the desired room and just going around in circles,
I choose QUIT. There is no inventory--the player can have one item
only. The cursor is clicked on an item to get/replace it.
I want text! I want to type a few words. I do not want to type whole
paragraphs, so the two or three word parser is just fine.
There is one feature of the buttonless graphic games--they either write a
log book of events, conversations (the games talk--maybe) and/or record
items and books to be seen on command. So the player does not really
need to keep notes. Some text/graphic games draw maps which is ok. .
I would like some text games to have 'use'. When I get frustrated
trying to discover the right command, that would help, but it should
not be the only command. Maybe it could respond with 'how?'.

Lelah Conrad

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Jun 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/6/98
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On Fri, 05 Jun 1998 16:27:14 GMT, L. Ross Raszewski
<rras...@hotmail.com> wrote:



>it) I think this is a good idea, and should be tried out.
>I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to just "USE THE MICROCHIP ON THE
>BOARD", instead of spending 20 minutes figuring out that I've got
>to "HYPERFROMITZ THE CHIP TO THE BOARD"
>

I agree. I amazes me how many times I get the message "I don't know
the word "use"" (or however it's phrased) in IF.

Lelah

A. De Lisle

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Jun 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/7/98
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A further suggestion--
Look at the Master AGT.
You can press <ESC> and get a menu which gives, among others, the
choice to use a pre-written vocabulary--nouns and verbs.

I never use this, but I have read it when desperate in search of the
correct verb or just all the verbs in hopes one works.

This generator also gives a choice to see a picture or not. In the
case of the demo game, Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!, at least one picture
had a clue. Climb tree (in forest). If you climb all of them, one
has a clue. I think one other picture was crucial for the end.

There is also a music feature.


Matt Ackeret

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Jun 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/7/98
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In article <6l98ka$94i$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <michael...@ey.com> wrote:
>Let's take a look at the word "use", for example. "Use" is about as abstract
>as it gets. It renders moot the entire issue of language -- it makes almost
>any verb unnecessary. USE COAT (wear it). USE BANANA (eat it). USE SWORD
>(whack the nearest enemy with it). USE BOX (open it if it's closed, close it

In general I'd say I'm against the lobotomization of these games..

But I can also argue *for* this type of interface.

Your examples above show "use" being used to *do the most logical thing*
with the item. Doesn't that seem good? That seems like a good thing to
me.

The only problem would be accidentally giving away parts of the game by
allowing the input to be too vague.

So *both* forms of input would probably be best, but just saying
"use doohickey" rather than having to be very specific, seems like it
could be good.
--
mat...@area.com

Tom Alaerts

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Jun 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/8/98
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thanks everyone for the comments. I still haven't decided, though, even
just to be blasphemeous, I am tempted to try a "old Lucas-style" for my
1st game. It would be a nice experiment.
And still, again taking the sublime Indiana Jones in Atlantis as an
example, I didn't feel I was just trying different permutations of
actions an objects, as mr. Gentry suggests. Well, perhaps I should be
more humble because his "Anchorhead" is one of the nicest pieces of IF I
have enjoyed (currently am enjoying in fact), so he already proved to
know a thing or two about game design.

In my first posting I forgot to add:
- I would really like to have discussions with NPC's as is LA-style
adventures: a connected series of menus. The content of the menus change
depending on your "position" in the adventure. Just because I have come
to hate trying to find to right vocabulary. And after all, for me a good
adventure game should suck me into its world, and I don't like being
bothered by technical issues like available vocabulary.
Any other comments on this?

Tom Alaerts


Barry Smith

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Jun 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/9/98
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The message <6lcv96$17vdk$1...@iris.area.com>
from mat...@area.com (Matt Ackeret) contains these words:

> So *both* forms of input would probably be best, but just saying
> "use doohickey" rather than having to be very specific, seems like it
> could be good.
> --
> mat...@area.com

Hmm.

> INVENTORY

You are carrying
a thing that your aunt gave you that you don't kkow what it is

> USE THING

You put everything in the thing that your aunt gave you that you
don't kkow what it is.


Takes all the fun out of that problem :(

--
Barry Smith (Spud)
resi...@spam.thanks.zetnet.co.uk
(Just remove the spam thanks)


L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/10/98
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In article <357BCD2D...@but.be>,

Tom Alaerts <to...@but.be> wrote:
>
> In my first posting I forgot to add:
> - I would really like to have discussions with NPC's as is LA-style
> adventures: a connected series of menus. The content of the menus change
> depending on your "position" in the adventure. Just because I have come
> to hate trying to find to right vocabulary. And after all, for me a good
> adventure game should suck me into its world, and I don't like being
> bothered by technical issues like available vocabulary.
> Any other comments on this?
>

[Fall over laughing]

Do you read rec.arts.int-fiction? it's really more the place for this sort of
thing.

I just mention because there's just been a 3-month flamewar about this on
raif.

The prevalent attitude seems to be "menus break mimesis and are evil evil
evil, while ask/tell is wonderful because it's what infocom did"

(I'm being sarcastic.)

I'm in favor of menus. (I have to be. I'm using them. I also wrote a
library, converse.h, which generates them.) Ask/tell also has many good
points.

Ask/Tell has a limitation in that it limits interaction to a specific type of
question, and gives a false sense of boundlesness, which is shattered when
asking bob about his mother returns "I've never heard of that"

Menus have a limitation that they don't even try to hide their boundaries, and
they outright put words into the player's mouth (ask tell does this too
sometimes, but menus tend to require this be done)

Both systems break mimesis unless (a) mimesis is liberally defined or (2) the
programmer is infinately careful.

In all, I think that menus work well for games with a well-defined PC, and
not so well for the hypergeneric-PC (I also prefer well-defined PCs, but
that's just me. Many others disagree)

I also think that on top of a menu, the player should be able to
show/ask/tell the NPC any object in their posession (many graphical games do
this; "talk to x" generates a menu, and "use y on x" asks the about that
specific item.)

It has also been suggested that conversation menus shouldn't clear the
screen. I'm not sure aout the validity of this (I'm clearing the screen
myself) "Once" doesn't. The next version of domenu/altmenu will allow such
a conversation menu

No matter what you do, it is generally agreed that current NPC interaction
methods are unsatisfying. THe biggest dilemma is "how should we go about
changing this?"

If you're lucky, you can find my point in here somewhere, and maybe you'll
even find some other points. You might even find jimmy Hoffa, I'm not sure.

Good luck, whatever you decide

Tom Alaerts

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Jun 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/10/98
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LDo you read rec.arts.int-fiction? it's really more the place for this
sort of

> thing.
>
> I just mention because there's just been a 3-month flamewar about this
> on
> raif.
>

oh. i didn't know.

>

otherwise thanks for you informative reply. i will check out your
library. It is on gmd, I hope.

Also, just yesterday i started playing Broken Sword 2, which also has a
menu system for its dialogue. A very simple one even (just icons of the
subjects of your conversation are shown, no words). But it is all very
well done, so I don't bother.

Yet another thing: if i ever get around finishing my IF idea, you won't
be able to come in a position that makes the game impossible to finish
(Except for bugs of course). I truly hate it to have to start a game
again. I even lose my interest at that point. Anyone who, like me, took
the bonding plant in the VERY FIRST screen of return to zork will surely
agree!!! Really, long live the Lucasarts philosophy of adventure design.

a nice thing about IF is that there aren't any of those annoying
pixel-hunt puzzles (I remember the otherwise great Gabriel Knight 1,
where sometimes you had to click on objects that where maybe 2 pixels
big. Aaaaargh!)

Tom


L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/10/98
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In article <357E5337...@but.be>,

Tom Alaerts <to...@but.be> wrote:
>
> Yet another thing: if i ever get around finishing my IF idea, you won't
> be able to come in a position that makes the game impossible to finish
> (Except for bugs of course). I truly hate it to have to start a game
> again. I even lose my interest at that point. Anyone who, like me, took
> the bonding plant in the VERY FIRST screen of return to zork will surely
> agree!!! Really, long live the Lucasarts philosophy of adventure design.

Good deal. I think this is a philosophy that is about ready for its time in
the sun.

>
> a nice thing about IF is that there aren't any of those annoying
> pixel-hunt puzzles (I remember the otherwise great Gabriel Knight 1,
> where sometimes you had to click on objects that where maybe 2 pixels
> big. Aaaaargh!)
>

Nah.... we have guess the WORD instead :-) (We maybe have it less often,
(though recent graphical games have gotten pretty good about this) but there
are a whole lot more words in the english language than there are pixels on
the screen.)

Paul A Krueger

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Jun 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/10/98
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L. Ross Raszewski wrote in message <6lm9tj$n6f$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...

>Nah.... we have guess the WORD instead :-) (We maybe have it less often,
>(though recent graphical games have gotten pretty good about this) but
there
>are a whole lot more words in the english language than there are pixels on
>the screen.)

Speaking of that, I have a question about SpiritWrak. I got stuck at one
point and had to consult a walkthrough and noticed that something I missed
was to go to a particular area and *cough* to get a scroll. Cough? Am I
being blind to some obvious clue? And if not, is the rest of the game like
this?


Dylan O'Donnell

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Jun 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/11/98
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"Paul A Krueger" <WEIRD...@prodigy.net> writes:
> L. Ross Raszewski wrote in message <6lm9tj$n6f$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...
>
> >Nah.... we have guess the WORD instead :-) (We maybe have it less often,
> >(though recent graphical games have gotten pretty good about this) but
> there
> >are a whole lot more words in the english language than there are pixels on
> >the screen.)
>
> Speaking of that, I have a question about SpiritWrak.

[SpiritWrak SPOILERS]

> I got stuck at one
> point and had to consult a walkthrough and noticed that something I missed
> was to go to a particular area and *cough* to get a scroll. Cough? Am I
> being blind to some obvious clue? And if not, is the rest of the game like
> this?

This is where you have to start the avalanche, right? IIRC, you can
start it in any number of ways... cough, shout, yell, yodel. The problem
with this puzzle isn't so much guessing the verb, as guessing the unlikely
thing to have to do; once you've decided you want an avalanche at that
location, it's not difficult to start one.

There's a few other "read the mind of the author" puzzles in SW, but I
don't think that the parser is unneccesarily restrictive at any point.

--
Dylan O'Donnell : O fuge Iabrochium, sanguis meus! Ille recurvis
Demon Internet Ltd : Unguibus, estque avidis dentibus ille minax.
Southend slave deck : Ububae fuge cautus avis vim, gnate! Neque unquam
http://www.fysh.org/~psmith/ : Faedarpax contra te frumiousus eat!

Joe Mason

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Jun 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/11/98
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Dylan O'Donnell wrote:
>
> [SpiritWrak SPOILERS]


This space intentionally left blank.

> > I got stuck at one
> > point and had to consult a walkthrough and noticed that something I missed
> > was to go to a particular area and *cough* to get a scroll. Cough? Am I
> > being blind to some obvious clue? And if not, is the rest of the game like
> > this?
>
> This is where you have to start the avalanche, right? IIRC, you can

No, that's where you have to get the monk's attention. IIRC, this
puzzle was removed from the game in a later release - the monk simply
sees you as soon as you enter the room. Also IIRC, the release with the
puzzle still in it was quite buggy, so you may want to look for a newer
version.

Joe

Paul A Krueger

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Jun 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/11/98
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Joe Mason wrote in message <35805D60...@execulink.com>...
>Dylan O'Donnell wrote:

>> This is where you have to start the avalanche, right? IIRC, you can
>
>No, that's where you have to get the monk's attention

No, he's right. And as soon as saw "cough" as a solution to a puzzle (I had
to consult a walkthrough) I stopped right there. "Read my mind" is about 10
times worse than "Guess the verb."

Might play again, might not.

Weird Beard
weird...@prodigy.net

Patrick M. Berry

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Jun 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/12/98
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In article <199806091...@zetnet.co.uk>, Barry Smith <resi...@zetnet.co.uk> writes:

> > INVENTORY
>
> You are carrying
> a thing that your aunt gave you that you don't kkow what it is
>
> > USE THING
>
> You put everything in the thing that your aunt gave you that you
> don't kkow what it is.
>
>
> Takes all the fun out of that problem :(

How about this: USE would only be supported for objects that can only
be used in one obvious way. Otherwise, the interpreter says it doesn't
know what you mean. For example:

> INVENTORY

You are carrying:
a whistle
Ford's satchel
a thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is
no tea

> USE WHISTLE

(blowing the whistle)

The whistle produces only a soft hissing noise.

In the distance, you can hear dogs barking.

> USE SATCHEL

How do you want to use it?

> OPEN SATCHEL

That's Ford's and it's private.

> USE THING

How do you want to use it?

> PUT WHISTLE IN THING

Done.


Tucker (Jazz Fish)

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Jun 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/17/98
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In article <6m6tnt$btg2$1...@newssvr04-int.news.prodigy.com>, "Weird Beard" <WEIRD...@prodigy.net> wrote:
>Someday I may compile a list of all the ZGI deaths, if for no other reason
>but to prove to doubters that you *can* make Zorks in the 90s.

Bear in mind that several of those weren't actually "deaths", like jumping
into a bottomless pit or down a dragon's gaping maw...

Barry Smith

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Jun 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/25/98
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> Of course in ZGI the longest you could get permanently stuck was about 45
> seconds. Raise your hand if you ever made a Zork Rock bomb *without*
> figuring out where to place it ;)

*Raises hand sheepishly*

Nonetheless, the point stands - Other than ZGI, I can't think of a single
Zork i've actually managed to finish. Terrible admission to make, perhaps,
but I'm still plugging away at them - maybe one day i'll finally finish one :)

--
Barry Smith
resi...@zetnet.co.uk

Barry Smith

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Jun 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM6/25/98
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The message <6m7bui$pcq$1...@solaris.cc.vt.edu>
from jazz...@vt.edu (Tucker (Jazz Fish)) contains these words:

Are you trying to tell me you never tried jumping into the bottomless pits
in Zork Zero either? I'd say it leaves you conclusively dead.
--
Barry Smith

Paul Herdeg

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Aug 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/2/98
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L. Ross Raszewski wrote:

> <snip>

> The prevalent attitude seems to be "menus break mimesis and are evil evil

> evil, while ask/tell is wonderful because it's what infocom did"
>

> <snip>


> Both systems break
> mimesis unless (a) mimesis is liberally defined or (2) the
> programmer is infinately careful.

> <snip>

Hmm..isn't mimesis a plant?

My Canadian $0.02. Hmm..make that $0.02 of that square coinage they use on an
obscure island.


Adam J. Thornton

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Aug 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/3/98
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In article <35C51109...@REMOVETHIS.stratos.net>,

Paul Herdeg <her...@REMOVETHIS.stratos.net> wrote:
>Hmm..isn't mimesis a plant?

Paul, I love you.

Please bear my children.

Yours forever,
Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"There's a border to somewhere waiting, and a tank full of time." - J. Steinman

Den of Iniquity

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Aug 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/3/98
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On Sun, 2 Aug 1998, Paul Herdeg wrote:
>Hmm..isn't mimesis a plant?

Nah, it's 'protective similarity of an animal to one of another species' -
by resembling another species which has better defences, an animal has a
better survival chance.

HTH.

--
Den (I can just see you now, nodding your head and saying "Ah, _now_
I know what they were talking about.")

[Think: resembling 'real life', FWIW]


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