Use of USE

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Freddy

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Apr 23, 2003, 1:42:31 PM4/23/03
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Hi gamers.

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
on this.

If I have a shovel should

>use shovel

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.

Fred Demul

Ricardo SIGNES

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Apr 23, 2003, 3:40:11 PM4/23/03
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In article <8da7a47a.03042...@posting.google.com>, Freddy wrote:
> 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.

Similar questions:
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
in design.")

--
rjbs

Joe Mason

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Apr 23, 2003, 4:24:21 PM4/23/03
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In article <8da7a47a.03042...@posting.google.com>, Freddy wrote:
> If I have a shovel should
>
>>use shovel
>
> work just as well as
>
>>dig ground with shovel

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.

Joe

Daphne Brinkerhoff

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Apr 23, 2003, 6:19:10 PM4/23/03
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dem...@hotmail.com (Freddy) wrote in message news:<8da7a47a.03042...@posting.google.com>...

> Hi gamers.
>
> 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.

(minor snip)

> 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.

--
Daphne

Harry

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Apr 23, 2003, 6:50:09 PM4/23/03
to

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:

Kitchen
You are in a kitchen.

You see Chester the cat here.

Some food lies on the counter.
>Take food
Taken.

>Use food
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:

>USE FLASHLIGHT
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
coded.

-------------------------
"Hey, aren't you Gadget?"
"I was."

(To send e-mail, remove SPAMBLOCK from address)

Ben Caplan

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Apr 23, 2003, 7:21:15 PM4/23/03
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Harry at gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl pontificated:

> 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...

> I
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
Unlocked.

> IN
The grate is closed.

> QUIT


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

Mike Roberts

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Apr 23, 2003, 8:59:41 PM4/23/03
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"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
perspective.

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
everything else.

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?

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Paul Drallos

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Apr 23, 2003, 9:08:32 PM4/23/03
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Daphne Brinkerhoff wrote:

>
> 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.

Paul

R. N. Dominick

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Apr 24, 2003, 12:12:59 AM4/24/03
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Ben Caplan <b...@hayscaplan.org> wrote in
news:BACC8A1A.1AF5%b...@hayscaplan.org:

>> USE KEYS
> I don't know the word 'use'.
>
> [after much guess-the-verb...]
>
>> UNLOCK GRATE WITH KEYS
> Unlocked.

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

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Apr 24, 2003, 4:10:25 AM4/24/03
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On Wed, 23 Apr 2003 17:59:41 -0700, "Mike Roberts"
<mjrUND...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>"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
>perspective.
>

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
>everything else.

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?
>
>--Mike
>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
objects.

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?

Quintin Stone

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Apr 24, 2003, 9:00:02 AM4/24/03
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On Wed, 23 Apr 2003, Mike Roberts wrote:

> 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 ||
\====================================================================/

Freddy

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Apr 24, 2003, 9:12:25 AM4/24/03
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Interesting that most people responded as a game designer and not as a
player. I was really hoping for player opinions but do appreciate all
the feedback.

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
situation.

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.

Fred Demul

Rikard Peterson

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Apr 24, 2003, 9:37:47 AM4/24/03
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Mike Roberts wrote in news:TKGpa.23$gR....@news.oracle.com:

> 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.)

Rikard

Alan DeNiro

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Apr 24, 2003, 9:50:43 AM4/24/03
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>
> Agreed. Sometimes designers forget they are in the 'fun-business', not
> the 'art-business' or the 'elegant-algolrythm-business'.
>

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."

Best,
Alan


______
Alan DeNiro

Correspondent, Ptarmigan
http://ptarmigan.blogspot.com

Ricardo SIGNES

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Apr 24, 2003, 10:22:57 AM4/24/03
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In article <8da7a47a.03042...@posting.google.com>, Freddy wrote:
> Interesting that most people responded as a game designer and not as a
> player. I was really hoping for player opinions but do appreciate all
> the feedback.

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
unimplemented.

--
rjbs

Paul Drallos

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Apr 24, 2003, 10:32:17 AM4/24/03
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Quintin Stone wrote:
> On Wed, 23 Apr 2003, Mike Roberts wrote:
>

>
> 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
compelling situations.

Mike Roberts

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Apr 24, 2003, 1:40:59 PM4/24/03
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"Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
> 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'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.

Mike Roberts

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Apr 24, 2003, 1:46:38 PM4/24/03
to
"Quintin Stone" <st...@rps.net> wrote:
> 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."

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."

Rikard Peterson

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Apr 24, 2003, 2:34:22 PM4/24/03
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Mike Roberts wrote in news:ApVpa.11$B95...@news.oracle.com:

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
answer.

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.

Rikard

Mike Roberts

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Apr 24, 2003, 3:25:16 PM4/24/03
to
"Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
> 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 answer.

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.

Magnus Olsson

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Apr 24, 2003, 3:53:46 PM4/24/03
to
In article <Xns9367D148CE685tr...@130.133.1.4>,

Rikard Peterson <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
>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.

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".

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
PGP Public Key available at http://www.df.lth.se/~mol

Paul Drallos

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Apr 24, 2003, 4:17:44 PM4/24/03
to
Rikard Peterson wrote:

> I probably don't like
> "guess the verb" any more than you do, but I don't think Use is the
> answer.
>
> 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".

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.

Quintin Stone

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Apr 24, 2003, 4:37:31 PM4/24/03
to
On 24 Apr 2003, Magnus Olsson wrote:

> 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'."

Mike Roberts

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Apr 24, 2003, 4:43:11 PM4/24/03
to
"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
> 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".

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.

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Apr 24, 2003, 5:05:26 PM4/24/03
to
Mike Roberts wrote in news:lXWpa.15$B95...@news.oracle.com:

> 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. :)

Rikard

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 24, 2003, 9:56:29 PM4/24/03
to
Here, Mike Roberts <mjrUND...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> "Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>> 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".

> 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?

Yes.

Unfortunately, players always play games the way they don't want to.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Apr 24, 2003, 11:43:34 PM4/24/03
to
On Thu, 24 Apr 2003 16:17:44 -0400, Paul Drallos <pdra...@tir.com> wrote:
>
>"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.
>

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."

Mike Roberts

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 1:19:46 AM4/25/03
to
"Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
> My main point is simply that the lack of a Use verb helped
> me understand how to play text games [after experience
> with playing graphical adventures].

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. :)

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 3:12:19 AM4/25/03
to
In article <G92qa.27262$ra4....@nwrddc01.gnilink.net>, L. Ross Raszewski wrote:
> 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."

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
adventures.)

Joe

gm...@rzu-mailhost.unizh.ch

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 5:45:17 AM4/25/03
to
In article <TuVpa.12$B95...@news.oracle.com>, "Mike Roberts"
<mjrUND...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>
> 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
adventuring. Giovanni

Paul Drallos

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 2:21:10 PM4/25/03
to

Oooooo. I like that!

Kathleen

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 4:29:57 PM4/25/03
to
Ricardo SIGNES <rjbs-...@public.manxome.org> wrote in message news:<slrnbafspv.s5...@humptydumpty.manxome.org>...

> In article <8da7a47a.03042...@posting.google.com>, Freddy wrote:
> > Interesting that most people responded as a game designer and not as a
> > player. I was really hoping for player opinions but do appreciate all
> > the feedback.
>
> 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.

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
irrelevant.

> USE FLUMBOBBLE
You zapple the flumbobble, instantly reducing yourself to a pile
of ash.

> 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
> unimplemented.

Agreed - though a simple message in the ABOUT would take care of that.

Kathleen

Edmund Kirwan

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Apr 25, 2003, 7:17:12 PM4/25/03
to
Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote in message news:<vi5eavs42revc9798...@4ax.com>...

> On 23 Apr 2003 10:42:31 -0700, dem...@hotmail.com (Freddy) 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:
>
> Kitchen
> You are in a kitchen.
>
> You see Chester the cat here.
>
> Some food lies on the counter.
> >Take food
> Taken.
>
> >Use food
> 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:
>
> >USE FLASHLIGHT
> Ah yes! But how?
>
> Which teaches the player he has to be specific.

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 ...

.ed


/==================\
www.edmundkirwan.com
"It's not very good."

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 8:16:50 PM4/25/03
to
Here, Edmund Kirwan <ade...@eircom.net> wrote:

> 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
the game.

Ahab

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 9:12:14 PM4/25/03
to
Seems pretty simple to me - acknowledge the verb but don't make it a
shortcut to finding the function(s) of the item in question.

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
debate?

Just my humble opinion.


William Burke

unread,
Apr 25, 2003, 9:16:05 PM4/25/03
to
In article <a80e1059.03042...@posting.google.com>,
ade...@eircom.net (Edmund Kirwan) wrote:

> 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.

this isn't what I'm getting from the thread at all. mostly what I heard
was:

a) designers saying that "use" is contrary to the way they want their
game played.
b) players saying, mostly, that "use" avoids guess-the-verb problems.

note especially Mike Roberts:

> 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.

and

> 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.

of course, if you can't figure out what verb you're supposed to be using
when your objective is obvious from context, then there's a more
fundamental design problem. so if I were to draw a conclusion from this
thread, it would be to implement use as a verb that always does the
"sensible" thing with an object, so that it will dig with a shovel, open
a door with keys, or poke a fireplace with a fireplace poker, but won't
use the shovel as a club or the keys as a counterweight or the poker as
a lever handle.

this makes extra sense to me for two reasons: first, the average
non-degenerate player will only be typing USE when he thinks the way he
wants to use the object should be obvious, so making it do the obvious
thing should handle almost all the appropriate situations, and beta
testing will hopefully catch the rest. secondly, this encourages you to
create puzzles that are a little more complicated and lateral than just
picking up an object and applying it in the standard way, since if you
do that the player may well USE his way through the entire game.

--p

Ben Caplan

unread,
Apr 26, 2003, 12:01:04 PM4/26/03
to
In my mind, an ideal parser would be understandable to someone who has no
experience with IF at all, or even graphical adventures. There are probably
people here who remember playing ADVENT for the first time way back when it
was first released. How much guess-the-verb did you play? Did you try USE?
It's a fairly common verb. How long did it take you to discover that you had
to press [enter] after each command?

If a game can be won easily by putting all visible objects to their most
naturally obvious uses (dig with shovel, flip light switch, read book), then
the game needs some fundamental redesigning.

The real problem is that everything that's been said on this thread so far
is correct.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Ben Caplan -- philosopher, linguist, and thaumaturge


Mike Arnautov

unread,
Apr 27, 2003, 5:41:10 AM4/27/03
to
Harry wrote:

> 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
> objects.

I got to see many player logs of adv660 nearly 20 years ago. Comparing my
memory of those logs with the ones I've seen recently in beta-testing
adv770, I was startled to observe differences, which confirm exactly what
you are saying. These days, players expect parsers to be much more finicky,
and as the result insist on being unnecessarily specific. It confirmed my
strong suspicion that the art of intelligent defaulting is dead or dying in
IF.

> 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?

Depends on your priorities. From my PoVS it's a no-brainer: simplify the
parser. And yes, I knnow that many would disagree. And, alas, players got
"educated" into picking their words with care. It's a loss. One of these
days I will write that paper entitled "Complex Parsers Considered Harmful".
AFAICS they've caused a lot of damage to IF.

YMMV, but I don't care! :-)

--
Mike Arnautov

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 27, 2003, 10:34:06 AM4/27/03
to
Here, Mike Arnautov <m...@mipmip.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> I got to see many player logs of adv660 nearly 20 years ago. Comparing my
> memory of those logs with the ones I've seen recently in beta-testing
> adv770, I was startled to observe differences, which confirm exactly what
> you are saying. These days, players expect parsers to be much more finicky,
> and as the result insist on being unnecessarily specific.

Adventure is a strange case. It has puzzle requirements which, even a
few years later, would be considered design solecisms.

(I'm thinking of the "KILL DRAGON" sequence. And the puzzle where,
without any hints at all, you have to realize that typing "XYZZY" or
"FEE" is meaningful.)

> It confirmed my strong suspicion that the art of intelligent
> defaulting is dead or dying in IF.

I really don't think the language has changed much since 1983-ish --
at least among people who came in through Infocom games. So if it's
dying, then the entire history of modern IF has appeared it was
morbid.

>> 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?

> Depends on your priorities. From my PoVS it's a no-brainer: simplify the
> parser. And yes, I knnow that many would disagree. And, alas, players got
> "educated" into picking their words with care. It's a loss.

I keep reading these paragraphs and thinking, "A *simple* parser
requires you to pick your words carefully. A *complex* parser allows
options and intelligent defaults."

Obviously, a game can use a complex parser poorly. A big part of my
design time is spent on the question: "The player knows what he wants
to do. What might he type?"

Mike Arnautov

unread,
Apr 27, 2003, 1:52:34 PM4/27/03
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>> I got to see many player logs of adv660 nearly 20 years ago. Comparing my
>> memory of those logs with the ones I've seen recently in beta-testing
>> adv770, I was startled to observe differences, which confirm exactly what
>> you are saying. These days, players expect parsers to be much more
>> finicky, and as the result insist on being unnecessarily specific.
>
> Adventure is a strange case. It has puzzle requirements which, even a
> few years later, would be considered design solecisms.

That's as maybe, but I am talking about ordinary actions. E.g. players
insisting on typing "OPEN DOOR" rather than just "OPEN", even though the
door is the only openable object present. It goes deeper than that too. The
beta testers uniformly typed "EXAMINE" in full, even though vocabulary
command clearly gives "X" as a synonym, and the instructions state that
everything is abbreviable to the shortest unambiguous length (so as it
happens, "EX" would do too). That certainly wasn't the case back in the
80s. And it's not that people are more used to keyboards these days -- the
players whose logs I saw all those years ago were seasoned computer users.

> (I'm thinking of the "KILL DRAGON" sequence.

Case in point. It used to be just "KILL" most of the time, 'cause there
wasn't anybody else there to attack. Now everybody types "KILL DRAGON".
Similarly, nobody now uses naked "GET" (let alone abbreviating it to "G",
as vocabulary suggests) to pick up a single present portable object.

>> It confirmed my strong suspicion that the art of intelligent
>> defaulting is dead or dying in IF.
>
> I really don't think the language has changed much since 1983-ish

The language hasn't (did I suggest it did?). What appears to have changed is
that players are no longer willing to trust the game to do the appropriate
defaulting. Probably quite rightly too. How many modern games would do as
the old Adventure did, and do the right thing in response to "OPEN" by the
locked grate, provided you were carrying the keys? Or how many code for
"FOLLOW PATH"?

>> Depends on your priorities. From my PoVS it's a no-brainer: simplify the

>> parser. And yes, I know that many would disagree. And, alas, players got


>> "educated" into picking their words with care. It's a loss.
>
> I keep reading these paragraphs and thinking, "A *simple* parser
> requires you to pick your words carefully. A *complex* parser allows
> options and intelligent defaults."

Allows, yes, but that doesn't mean that's how it is typically used. It's a
question of the respective sizes of the command space. A typical author
will put only so much effort (often not much effort :-) into covering all
possible ways in which a player might specify a particular action. With a
simple parser this will result in a proportionally greater coverage than
with a complex one. Given the reasonable assumption of roughly the same
amount of effort being put into it in both cases, the outcome is not hard
to foresee -- games using complex parsers will be typically more picky. The
occasional brilliant exception does not disprove this. Player habits are
not formed by exceptions but by the standard fare.

No, I am not claiming that things were better in some imaginary Golden Age
of IF. About a year ago I made a list of all possible commands a player may
give in trying to do something as simple as exiting from the brick
well-house in Adventure. It was surprisingly long. And when I tried the
list on the good old adv660 (which I fondly think was better than most in
this respect :-), I was unpleasantly surprised to see just how few of them
actually worked. Depressing, really.

> Obviously, a game can use a complex parser poorly. A big part of my
> design time is spent on the question: "The player knows what he wants
> to do. What might he type?"

Yup. A huge chunk of adv770 development was spent on that -- despite my
decision to go for tradition and stick with a simple parser; I shudder to
think at the effort that would have to go into it with a complex one! And
then players went ahead and typed something else altogether, causing me no
end of extra work. :-)

But the point of my diatribe against complex parsers is not that they are
bad per se. Merely that they came in far too early, before IF had the time
to establish cultural norms, which would have mitigated the ease with which
complex parsers can be (and are) abused.

--
Mike Arnautov

Mike Roberts

unread,
Apr 27, 2003, 3:59:57 PM4/27/03
to
"Mike Arnautov" <m...@mipmip.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> From my PoVS it's a no-brainer: simplify the parser. And yes, I
> knnow that many would disagree. And, alas, players got "educated"
> into picking their words with care. It's a loss. One of these days I
> will write that paper entitled "Complex Parsers Considered Harmful".
> AFAICS they've caused a lot of damage to IF.

I can understand why you've formed this impression, but I think you've
confused cause and effect. The differences you have observed have nothing
to do with parsers having become more finicky; the differences come from the
world model become richer. The title I'd suggest for your paper is
"Simulationist World Models Considered Harmful," because it's the richness
in the world model that's creating the need for more precise input. The
parsers in today's major systems do a fine job of inferring meaning from
context; Advent only created the illusion that it was doing that by having
an extremely limited context. If you were to put an Advent-style parser on
top of a modern game's world model, you'd have the strange situation that
the world model would be capable of representing things that the input
language couldn't express. As a trivial example, in a room containing a
desk and a shelf, there would be no way to specify that you wanted to put
something on one or the other of them. If you don't like that level of
complexity, your beef is with the world model, not the parser.

Today's graphical adventures are roughly on par with Advent in terms of
richness of world model, which I think serves as an existence proof that
Advent-class world models can still be used to create satisfying games.
(That's an argument you can use in your paper, to counter the claim some
people would make that Advent was only successful with its limited world
model because of its novelty.)

I personally wouldn't be too enthusiastic about a renaissance of
Advent-level text games, though. As a player, I don't mind the limitations
of graphical adventures; if anything, the simpler the better when it comes
to point-and-click interfaces. But I find such a limited world model to
feel almost claustrophobic when rendered in text format. There's something
about the verbal input format that makes me really want my indirect objects.
Whenever I play a two-word-parser game, I have this unpleasant feeling of
being unable to express my intentions.

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Apr 27, 2003, 6:04:52 PM4/27/03
to
Mike Arnautov wrote in
news:3eac18d2$0$962$cc9e...@news.dial.pipex.com:

> That's as maybe, but I am talking about ordinary actions. E.g.
> players insisting on typing "OPEN DOOR" rather than just "OPEN",
> even though the door is the only openable object present. It goes
> deeper than that too. The beta testers uniformly typed "EXAMINE"
> in full, even though vocabulary command clearly gives "X" as a
> synonym, and the instructions state that everything is abbreviable
> to the shortest unambiguous length (so as it happens, "EX" would
> do too). That certainly wasn't the case back in the 80s. And it's
> not that people are more used to keyboards these days -- the
> players whose logs I saw all those years ago were seasoned
> computer users.

Exactly. I'd say that it's the opposite. Those people in the eighties
were probably more used to typed commands. To me, "Open Door" seems
more natural to type than "Open" which seems much more like a computer
command. You might as well type "grep" or "rm". Abbreviations are
handy, but they have to be learned. The most natural thing to type is
the full command. At least, that's how I think my mind works.

Rikard

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Apr 28, 2003, 12:22:59 AM4/28/03
to
On 27 Apr 2003 22:04:52 GMT, Rikard Peterson <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
>Exactly. I'd say that it's the opposite. Those people in the eighties
>were probably more used to typed commands. To me, "Open Door" seems
>more natural to type than "Open" which seems much more like a computer
>command. You might as well type "grep" or "rm". Abbreviations are
>handy, but they have to be learned. The most natural thing to type is
>the full command. At least, that's how I think my mind works.

Um. Maybe I'm missing something, but what you're saying makes no sense
to me.

I mean, yes 'open door' sounds more natural than 'open', but 'open'
sounds more like a computer command? The examples you cite, 'grep'
and 'rm' don't follow through with this analogy; you type 'grep' or
'rm' into a shell with no further arguments, and you'll get an error;
there are very few commands in a command-line driven computer system
which don't take further arguments. I don't see any parallel between
the 1-word parser and using a command-based computer interface; on the
contrary, I'd think that the later parsers (Though not so advanced as
the modern adjective and preposition-supporting variety) would be more
similar to the sorts of commands one would give to a computer.

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 28, 2003, 12:27:33 AM4/28/03
to

I think he's just saying that the mindset that complains about "OPEN"
vs. "OPEN DOOR" is the same mindset that complains about "CP" vs.
"COPY".

Joe

Mike Roberts

unread,
Apr 28, 2003, 12:58:05 AM4/28/03
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> mjr:

> > Isn't it better to keep the player from *wanting*
> > to approach the game [as an exhaustive search in
> > EXAMINE/TAKE/USE space] rather than using

> > the UI to force them not to?
>
> Yes.
>
> Unfortunately, players always play games the way they don't
> want to.

True enough. Even so, I guess I'd rather not approach designing a game as
an exercise in thwarting the player; I mean, if it's to be a contest between
author and player, then it's no contest at all, as the author holds all the
cards.

One thing I've noticed as a player in games that are "too easy" is that I'm
sometimes more willing in these games to intentionally slow things down, by
looking at scenery or randomly playing with interactive elements. That
doesn't last long unless the scenery is interesting and the random fussing
is rewarded somehow, but when these conditions do hold, I've found myself on
occasion intentionally holding back from letting the story advance, because
I as the player wasn't quite ready for it yet. My point being that there
might be times when letting players brute-force their way through portions
won't necessarily hurt the experience as much as many authors seem to fear.

Quintin Stone

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Apr 28, 2003, 10:37:38 AM4/28/03
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On Sun, 27 Apr 2003, Mike Arnautov wrote:

> Case in point. It used to be just "KILL" most of the time, 'cause