I plan on entering the IF ART Show and since this will be my first
game for this show I was wondering what you thought on the verb USE.
I tried to do a google search but couldn't narrow down the posts since
USE is a common word so I don't know what discussions have taken place
If I have a shovel should
work just as well as
>dig ground with shovel
The deadline isn't for a few days so I have some time to make changes.
My gratitude for your time.
Should I be using Inform or TADS?
Is vi or emacs better?
Are graphics in games better than no graphics?
(Inform, vi, no, and "use is so general that it's annoying to use in plan and
Nobody really expects this.
> The deadline isn't for a few days so I have some time to make changes.
> My gratitude for your time.
I don't think you have time to make such major changes as introducing
USE. USE has to be context sensitive, so you have to implement it for
every object and possibly have it detect multiple things to do with each
object (>USE SHOVEL ON GHOUL instead of >HIT GHOUL WITH SHOVEL).
Testing it will take a lot of time. (If you add USE for just one noun
and circumstance, players will expect it to be consistent and it will
feel like a bug if the game doesn't respond just right.)
Of course, if your art show entry is just modelling the shovel, it might
be easy to just stick a USE verb on it, but if it's even a little more
complicated than that I don't think it's worth it right now.
> If I have a shovel should
> >use shovel
> work just as well as
> >dig ground with shovel
Personally, I wouldn't be looking for it to work. I wouldn't even try
it, unless the game told me to. If you're only going to pick one
form, I'd rather see the other way ("dig ground with shovel")
implemented. (Or maybe just "dig", since it should be clear I don't
want to dig the ceiling. "Dig with shovel" is natural-sounding, but I
bet it isn't so easy to code.)
I guess the answer is: did your betatesters try to "USE" things? If
so, you could put it in as an alternative syntax wherever it came
naturally to them.
(Not specific to your question) In general, if you have "USE" assume
what I want to do with something, that's going to be wrong some of the
time, and that would make me (as a player) not happy. With a shovel,
maybe it's obvious how to "use" it, but how does one "use" a glass of
water? An unsigned contract? Etc.
I don't really like 'USE' as a verb. As stated by others in this
thread, it take a lot more coding then you'd expect, since what you
basically do is provide a general synonym for lots of very different
actions. And people have different expectations for a single 'USE"
You are in a kitchen.
You see Chester the cat here.
Some food lies on the counter.
You eat the tasty food. Yummy!
At which point the player is annoyed, since he wanted to feed the cat.
I do, however, usually write a short 'USE' verb, which only prints out
a message to satisfy any logical input. Something like:
Ah yes! But how?
Which teaches the player he has to be specific.
There is nothing wrong in expecting specific commands to solve a
puzzle, as long as they are logical, clued properly and consistently
"Hey, aren't you Gadget?"
(To send e-mail, remove SPAMBLOCK from address)
> On 23 Apr 2003 10:42:31 -0700, dem...@hotmail.com (Freddy) wrote:
>>> use shovel
>>> dig ground with shovel
I agree with all of this, with one exception: Sometimes USE is the most
natural verb to use in a situation. Imagine if...
You have a set of keys.
> UNLOCK GRATE
You'll have to be more specific about how you want to do that.
> USE KEYS
I don't know the word 'use'.
[after much guess-the-verb...]
> UNLOCK GRATE WITH KEYS
The grate is closed.
And then there's 'use toilet' near the beginning of _Leather Goddesses of
Phobos_. It's a judgment to be made for each situation. I personally
advocate against it whenever reasonable, but the H in IMHO means 'I have no
clue.' When I say it, at least.
(Actually, I don't even say it. It's implicit.)
Ben Caplan -- philosopher, linguist, and thaumaturge
When you say you don't like USE, are you speaking as a player, or as an
author? The reasons you just stated (and the objections others have raised)
sound an awful lot like you're thinking about this from the author's
Not picking on you or anyone else in particular, I've observed a certain
tendency among raif'ers to do that - to think in terms of the purity of the
world model and the implementation details rather than in terms of the
player's experience. (Think of the recent "prior knowledge" threads, or
authors who turn off TAKE ALL because it would make things "too easy" for
the player.) It's fine to put the author's viewpoint ahead of the player's
if that's what you want, and given the high overlap in the community between
authors and players, perhaps there isn't really such a thing as a player's
viewpoint any more. But I'm not sure what the point is; players won't see
or appreciate the inner beauty of the mechanical construction of a game.
They just want something that's fun, easy to use, and doesn't require a lot
of tedious typing. It's pretty clear to me that the most successful games
have been the ones where the author put the player's priorities ahead of
Personally, I've found myself really, really wanting a USE command on a fair
number of occasions while playing IF games. Not all the time, but enough
times that it wasn't just a fluke. There are some objects whose function is
simply obvious, and there are times when a verb phrasing is anything but,
and it's happened to me at least a few times that those two conditions
coincided perfectly. You can talk about edge cases where USE SHOVEL might
mean "hit troll with shovel" or whatever, but even in cases like that, is a
player ever truly going to be confused if USE SHOVEL always means DIG?
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com
> I guess the answer is: did your betatesters try to "USE" things? If
> so, you could put it in as an alternative syntax wherever it came
> naturally to them.
I recently ran into this very situation. When my betatesters
tried to fight the beast, the game would respond with
'Bare-handed, you are no match for the beast.' So they would
then try 'use sword', and were perplexed as to why they couldn't
use the sword. So I implemented 'use sword' for that particular
case only and didn't get any further complaints from them.
>> USE KEYS
> I don't know the word 'use'.
> [after much guess-the-verb...]
>> UNLOCK GRATE WITH KEYS
I can pretty confidently predict that almost nobody has to guess that the
verb to use when presented with a locked lock and a key is 'unlock'. What
other possibilities could there be? 'Lock' and 'unlock' are what
naturally go with keys and locks -- well, along with the possibility of
'open lock with key'.
> And then there's 'use toilet' near the beginning of _Leather Goddesses
> of Phobos_.
But that's what we do; we use the toilet. There's no specific verb for
interacting with a toilet; that's the natural phrasing. (FWIW, in LGOP
you can 'pee' and 'pee in toilet' as well, or even 'wee-wee', which makes
the 11-year-old me giggle.)
But the natural phrasing for striking an enemy with a sword is most
definitely not 'use sword'.
R. N. Dominick -- ur...@bookmice.net
>"Harry" <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:
>> I don't really like 'USE' as a verb. As stated by others in this
>> thread, it take a lot more coding then you'd expect, since what
>> you basically do is provide a general synonym for lots of very
>> different actions. And people have different expectations for a
>> single 'USE" command:
>When you say you don't like USE, are you speaking as a player, or as an
>author? The reasons you just stated (and the objections others have raised)
>sound an awful lot like you're thinking about this from the author's
Erm... yeah. *blush* I was thinking mostly as an author here.
>Not picking on you or anyone else in particular, I've observed a certain
>tendency among raif'ers to do that - to think in terms of the purity of the
>world model and the implementation details rather than in terms of the
>player's experience. (Think of the recent "prior knowledge" threads, or
>authors who turn off TAKE ALL because it would make things "too easy" for
>the player.) It's fine to put the author's viewpoint ahead of the player's
>if that's what you want, and given the high overlap in the community between
>authors and players, perhaps there isn't really such a thing as a player's
>viewpoint any more. But I'm not sure what the point is; players won't see
>or appreciate the inner beauty of the mechanical construction of a game.
>They just want something that's fun, easy to use, and doesn't require a lot
>of tedious typing.
I was one of the people hammering on the point you just made: fun over
design-purity. And now I try to scare that little Inform coder out of
my head for a moment, I remember the joy in a simple verb-noun affair
where all the verbs are known to the player, including the use of USE.
So, hey. USE can be fun.
> It's pretty clear to me that the most successful games
>have been the ones where the author put the player's priorities ahead of
Agreed. Sometimes designers forget they are in the 'fun-business', not
the 'art-business' or the 'elegant-algolrythm-business'.
>Personally, I've found myself really, really wanting a USE command on a fair
>number of occasions while playing IF games. Not all the time, but enough
>times that it wasn't just a fluke. There are some objects whose function is
>simply obvious, and there are times when a verb phrasing is anything but,
>and it's happened to me at least a few times that those two conditions
>coincided perfectly. You can talk about edge cases where USE SHOVEL might
>mean "hit troll with shovel" or whatever, but even in cases like that, is a
>player ever truly going to be confused if USE SHOVEL always means DIG?
>mjr underscore at hotmail dot com
Okay, I'm all over the place now. Both points are valid. But with the
complex parsers of today, as a player I don't expect the game to
understand general commands, only specific. So I usually don't even
try 'USE' anymore but try to think of a natural way to interact with
I guess it is because of limitations in old parsers that they were
often elegantly coded in such a way that USE was a naturally way to
play the game. The question is: do we want to simplify the parser or
force the player to pick his words with care?
> Personally, I've found myself really, really wanting a USE command on a
> fair number of occasions while playing IF games. Not all the time, but
> enough times that it wasn't just a fluke. There are some objects whose
> function is simply obvious, and there are times when a verb phrasing is
> anything but, and it's happened to me at least a few times that those
> two conditions coincided perfectly. You can talk about edge cases where
> USE SHOVEL might mean "hit troll with shovel" or whatever, but even in
> cases like that, is a player ever truly going to be confused if USE
> SHOVEL always means DIG?
Although I dislike the idea of the generic "USE", I think Mike has a
point. There are those situations where an obvious-use object needs to be
employed, but the player is forced into the torture of guessing the one
obscure verb that the author implemented. Maybe there should be a default
verb attached to a few select objects that can be accessed with merely
"USE" ("use toilet", "use computer", etc.). Most other things, however,
could return the message: "You'll have to be more specific as to how you
want to use it."
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
To answer one of the questions, no it wasn't found by the person
looking at my game. There is a use verb in some tads code that I
found in the archive and it just got me thinking about my current
I know it's a lot of work to implement verbs but as Mike Roberts
pointed out, I'm just going to make use a synonym for certain actions
on certain items. If an item has multiple uses then the game will
respond that you need to be more specific. If an item has one major
use, then use will work.
For instance, a rake has one primary function. Rake leaves is the
proper command but I don't see why use rake shouldn't work either. On
the other hand, if you have a chain saw, use saw is too vague since
the game needs to know what you're trying to cut.
> When you say you don't like USE, are you speaking as a player, or
> as an author? The reasons you just stated (and the objections
> others have raised) sound an awful lot like you're thinking about
> this from the author's perspective.
As a player, I come from a background of graphical adventures and one
of the things I like most about text IF is the parser. That you don't
just Use or Use With, but are required to be more specific. I think it
would have been harder for me to get in the right mindset if the first
text game I played had supported Use.
I don't really have anything useful to say about the special cases
mentioned, but in the case of the shovel I see no advantage of
supporting Use Shovel. (And I would expect to shovel with the shovel.
For any digging I'd prefer a spade. Yes - I have grown up on a farm.)
Except that it perhaps should be reiterated that the author who posted
his question in the first place was making a game for the IF Art Show,
which is in fact, according to its guidelines, in the art "business."
I certainly meant to respond as both. I think that the problem with USE is its
genericity. It's useful only in cases where it is the most likely verb I'd use
in normal speech. "use toilet" and "use computer" and "use back massager" are
indeed good examples.
Even those, though, have replacements which should be supported -- I generally
never, ever use the 'use' verb in a game, largely because I assume it will be
> Although I dislike the idea of the generic "USE", I think Mike has a
> point. There are those situations where an obvious-use object needs to be
> employed, but the player is forced into the torture of guessing the one
> obscure verb that the author implemented. Maybe there should be a default
> verb attached to a few select objects that can be accessed with merely
> "USE" ("use toilet", "use computer", etc.). Most other things, however,
> could return the message: "You'll have to be more specific as to how you
> want to use it."
The player isn't necessarily forced forced into the torture of
guessing the verb. USE can implemented simply as an alternative
option for performing an action which can also be performed by
more more traditional verbage. The player doesn't have to use
'USE', but if (s)he does, it should work, at least in some
I think it's good to be *allowed* to be more specific. *Required* is less
clearly a benefit. For example, the parser could require you to always use
the full name of an object in a command, rather than eliding adjectives that
aren't needed because the meaning is clear from context; I don't think that
would be a benefit. To me, USE is very much the same thing in certain
cases: the meaning is so clear from context that I really want to use USE
instead of figuring out what other phrasing the author had in mind. Note
that I'm not saying that the other phrasing shouldn't also be accepted.
I think that would be just about perfect. I don't think USE is the most
natural verb most of the time, but once in a while it just is.
In cases where an object can be used in a couple of different ways, and
especially in cases where a guess-the-verb situation is likely because of
special phrasing, the standard USE reply could elaborate on the other uses:
"You'll have to be more specific - you can type something on the keyboard,
you can run an application by clicking on its icon, or you can press the
Print Screen button to print out what's on the screen."
But to a new player (esp. someone that has played graphical adventure
games), I think it is a good thing to be required to think beyond
"use object". Being given an error message when typing Use forces the
player to start to think differently, which is a good thing.
I like being required to "turn TV on" instead of "use TV" or "shovel
manure" instead of "use shovel with manure". I probably don't like
"guess the verb" any more than you do, but I don't think Use is the
If I encounter an object that I don't know how to use, I'd prefer the
game to hint at its useage rather than being allowed to type "USE
OBJECT". The examine-text for the shovel could mention that it can be
used to shovel things around. Examining the toilet may say something
about sitting down on it... And of course different phrasings is
good, but I still think Use is too generic.
I think we're basically in agreement on this much - I'm certainly not
suggesting that text games should go the graphical adventure route and
replace every verb with USE. I'm also not suggesting that USE ought to be
accepted as a synonym for every other verb. My point is rather than there
are times when USE is a perfectly natural way of stating something, and I
think it's good for games to accept that phrasing when that's the case. I
think it's especially called for when it's *the most* natural phrasing,
which doesn't happen frequently but does happen.
> If I encounter an object that I don't know how to use, I'd
> prefer the game to hint at its useage rather than being allowed
> to type "USE OBJECT".
Again, I'm not suggesting USE OBJECT as the generic catch-all verb. I'm
just suggesting it should be allowed where it's a natural phrasing. Even
so, I have a hard time seeing how it's a problem for you as a player to be
*allowed* to type USE SHOVEL. If you don't like typing USE SHOVEL, can't
you just not type USE SHOVEL? Assuming, of course, that the game equally
well accepts DIG. (Not that I think a shovel is a case that particularly
calls for USE; this is one where I think DIG is a more natural verb. I've
just been using it as a generic example because it was the one raised
earlier in the thread.)
> But to a new player (esp. someone that has played graphical
> adventure games), I think it is a good thing to be required to
> think beyond "use object".
I don't know; I just find it an odd mindset to think in terms of forcing
players to enjoy a game "the right way." I don't think text IF will attract
all that many new players, especially from the graphical adventure world, if
authors think they're on a mission to train players on the proper mode of
game appreciation. It's a little reminiscient of people who insist that I'm
missing something because I don't like peas; peas taste so yummy, they say,
I'm really missing out on this great yumminess experience by incorrectly not
liking them. I'm especially skeptical of the idea that the parser ought to
be part of the challenge of playing a game; maybe it's just my tastes, but I
see the parser as a user interface, and I think user interfaces should be as
transparent as possible.
Yes, I've seen this done; things like "To use the magic wand, type
'AIM WAND AT OBJECT'". It's a minor mimesis-breaker, of course, since
the "narrator" steps out of the story and starts discussing game
mechanics, but IMHO it's not much worse than having parser responses
like "I don't understand the word 'FROBNICATE'". And (again IMHO) it's
infinitely preferable to guess-the-verb problems.
The problem with "use", as I see it, is that it can cause gameplay to
degenerate into "take everything, examine everything, use everything",
similarly to the way some graphic games degenerate into "click on
everything and see if something happens".
> I probably don't like
> "guess the verb" any more than you do, but I don't think Use is the
> If I encounter an object that I don't know how to use, I'd prefer the
> game to hint at its useage rather than being allowed to type "USE
Actually, you have stumbled on a great use for 'USE' here.
"Guess the verb" often comes up and it can be very frustrating.
'USE' could be a nice way to present a hint about the verb or
syntax that is needed. So the player types 'use widget' and the
game could reply, 'In order to use the widget you will need to
SWING the widget at the <object>. The programmer might want to
put something like this in for cases where he knows player may
have difficulty guessing the verb.
> The problem with "use", as I see it, is that it can cause gameplay to
> degenerate into "take everything, examine everything, use everything",
> similarly to the way some graphic games degenerate into "click on
> everything and see if something happens".
Agreed. But then this is why I would only support the verb being helpful
in a few very particular and isolated cases where its usage is the MOST
perfectly natural response. Everything else would basically return a
"You'll have to be more specific" message. At the very least, that
message would be a little more comforting and helpful to the new player
than just "I don't know the word 'use'."
A valid concern, to be sure. But is the user interface really the right
place to be fixing the problem that a game isn't interactive enough? Isn't
it better to keep the player from *wanting* to approach the game that way,
rather than using the UI to force them not to?
It seems to me that the essence of the adventure game is in creating the
illusion that the game isn't a mechanical process; I think it's the only
kind of game where this is true, so maybe it's even the defining feature.
But I don't think the illusion can be created or maintained by forcing the
player to behave a certain way. I think the game has to get the player to
be an active participant in maintaining the illusion, and when you can do
that, the player won't want to ruin the illusion by reducing the game to a
mechanical exercise. Getting that active collaboration with the player
going isn't trivial, but I think it's like suspension of disbelief in static
fiction - you get it by default, because the whole reason they're watching
your movie or playing your game is that they *want* that experience of being
caught up in another reality. So you don't necessarily have to win it, you
just have to avoid losing it. I personally think using the UI to force the
player to behave a certain way is counterproductive, because it will only
frustrate the player, and call attention to the UI, both of which reduce the
player's will to maintain the illusion.
> I'm especially skeptical of the idea that the parser ought to be part
> of the challenge of playing a game; maybe it's just my tastes, but I
> see the parser as a user interface, and I think user interfaces
> should be as transparent as possible.
I agree. But for a user interface to be transparent, you have to
understand how it works. Think of all the courses given to help people
get started with the very basics of Windows that are second nature to
most of us computer users. My main point is simply that the lack of a
Use verb helped me understand how to play text games. I realise that
it's just a single datapoint (me) but it may apply to others as well so
authors should think twice before implementing Use.
Then again, maybe I'm just weird. :)
> A valid concern, to be sure. But is the user interface really the right
> place to be fixing the problem that a game isn't interactive enough? Isn't
> it better to keep the player from *wanting* to approach the game that way,
> rather than using the UI to force them not to?
Unfortunately, players always play games the way they don't want to.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.
See, I'm not sure about this.
If the game can tell me absolutely that the verb I'm looking for is
'swing', then it should just *do* it.
It really bugs me when I try an invalid syntax, and the game tells me
the <exact> right syntax; if the parser knows what I meant, then it's
just being a bitch.
Now, if >USE WIDGET responded "You'll have to be more specific."
that's fine; the parser doesn't know what I want to do. But ">USE
WIDGET" "You have to say FROBNICATE WIDGET for this to work." smacks
of "I know what you want to do, but you're going to have to play by my
rules or not at all."
Okay, that makes sense - sort of a built-in training system that reminds you
from the outset not to approach it the same way you would a graphical
adventure. But I really think you'd still get that effect if the game
responded to USE with "You'll have to be more specific" *most* of the time,
but accepted it for those few cases where it truly is a/the natural verb.
Or maybe text games just need some "mindset detection system" - something
like the subtle trick LGOP uses to get you to identify your sex at the
beginning of the game. Such as: If you click on the picture of the linking
book in the first scene, the game turns off USE entirely; if you type in
ENTER LINKING BOOK, you get the occasional USE where it's natural. (But if
you type USE LINKING BOOK, who knows. :)
Hmm, that gives me an idea. What if USE WIDGET said, "Some common ways
of interacting with widgets are the FROBNICATE, FIDDLIZE, and FOOZLE."
The game has no way of knowing which you actually mean at this time, but
it still gives you some syntax help. (And this would be especially
helpful, as another poster noted, for people just coming from graphic
> In cases where an object can be used in a couple of different ways, and
> especially in cases where a guess-the-verb situation is likely because of
> special phrasing, the standard USE reply could elaborate on the other uses
just want to offer my opinion as a player here...as a non-native english
speaker I really, really hate to get stuck in a guess-the-verb trap! It
did not happen often, luckily, but sometimes yes, particularly when the
author implements just one particular verb for a certain action. Just an
example, when you have to cut down a tree with an axe, it is certainly
more polished to say "chop tree", but what about allowing also to "use
axe" or "hit tree with axe"? My point here is that sometimes allowing the
use of simple verbs (it was USE in this thread, but the argument can be
made more general), even just replying to it with a hint to the right verb
to be used, will greatly facilitate people whose english vocabulary is
somehow limited (like me). Just want to add one thing here...I do not know
whether people ever considered it, but in my experience IF-playing was a
very amusing way to improve my english, which was very "technical" and
limited, by learning very simple and common words of everyday use (which
you generally do not find on textbooks or grammars). So, I think that
every IF-author who is spreading his work on the net, should be aware that
his piece of IF could also have an "instructive" or "educational" role.
Since I am not an author, I really do not know what this could change in a
IF writer's mind, but I wanted just to let you know my opinion.
Thanx to all the IF-writes who gave me hours of real good time! Happy
Oooooo. I like that!
Although - just to be difficult, here - what exactly should USE
COMPUTER do? Should it print something? Break into the ulti-secret
goverment agency? Display a receipe for Cheez Whiz...
Perhaps USE would be nice for sci-fi scenery things, where the correct
verb for an object isn't readily apparent and discovering it is
> USE FLUMBOBBLE
You zapple the flumbobble, instantly reducing yourself to a pile
> Even those, though, have replacements which should be supported -- I generally
> never, ever use the 'use' verb in a game, largely because I assume it will be
Agreed - though a simple message in the ABOUT would take care of that.
Amazing. As I read each line of this reply, I thought, "No, that's
crap!" And then at the end, I thought, "Oh, yeah, that actually good."
I think this thread has been answered by:
a) Programmers saying that they don't like, "Use," because it's
difficult to implement.
b) Players saying that they like, "Use," because it helps them to
understand what objects are for.
If you want, "Customers," for your game, go with (b) and give (at
least) cursory alternatives to, "Use," whenever anyone tries it ...
"It's not very good."
> I think this thread has been answered by:
> a) Programmers saying that they don't like, "Use," because it's
> difficult to implement.
> b) Players saying that they like, "Use," because it helps them to
> understand what objects are for.
Well, no. See the long string of posts, the recent ones, in which
*designers* dislike it because it can enable a non-fun path through
Personally I try 'use' in desperation when I reckon I'm on the right track
but have exhausted (or think I have) all other options.
Getting no recognition at all of a fairly logical input while already at
screaming point just produces the 'fuck it' response and the resulting
exodus of players to the pub to drown their frustration.
In the end if it works in your game, use it, if not don't - what's to
Just my humble opinion.