Scenery is boring - A solution!

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David Whyld
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by David Whyld »

You generally find that the people who think scenery is boring are those that never put any scenery in their games, just like the people who think spelling isn't important are those who can't spell.
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Lumin
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Lumin »

I now regret making a thread literally titled 'Scenery is boring'. Image
Duncan_B

Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Duncan_B »

(leaning back in my armchair...)

I think the complaint that "Scenery is boring" can be approached from two angles: the author and the player. As an author, "Scenery is boring" might refer to exactly what Lumin means... the sense of drudgery that accompanies the obligation of writing out "every little thing mentioned." I think the solution for this is to write deliberately. Mention what you need, what is exciting or important to a scene, etc., and avoid cluttering up your descriptions with the mundane. A stylistic choice; certainly not every author will or even wants to write that way. It might also be mentioned that this is a formal problem, not one encountered outside of standard parser-based IF-- authoring with Twine, for example, sidesteps the "scenery problem" completely. There's no reason an ADRIFT game might not offer similar restrictions on input... I did something like that with the demo for "Clod's Quest" back in the day.

As a player, "Scenery is boring" can mean a game is underimplemented. It might also be that there is a lot of implementation, but that very little of it is meaningful, that its descriptions are underwhelming or uninformative. Bland, "catalog," purely dimensional ("approximately 2 cm"), or encyclopedic descriptions (perhaps swiped from Wikipedia) often come across as tonal non-sequiturs and can ruin the atmosphere of a game. So the problem for the author here is, I think again, to write selectively if not interestingly. If it adds nothing to a game to mention a thing, perhaps it needn't be mentioned. On the other hand, if it must be mentioned, one might focus on the reasons why it must be mentioned in the description rather than say "It's just a chair" or anything like that.

All that said, an effective way to keep players from trying to chase down levels of description is to limit your use of nouns in descriptions (and be careful of or ready to jot out another quick description when using adjectives that suggest nouns, e.g. "scaly"). If you describe a candy bar as "Chock full o' almonds and yummy nougat," a player might try to check out almonds or nougat. If, on the other hand, you say, "Sure looks yummy!" you still manage to convey intention (eating) without worrying anybody over secondary descriptions. Emily Short's Counterfeit Monkey plays really well with this concept, and the more recent Spring Thing game Toby's Nose does a lot with this, too, as a way of offering progress and roadblocks to a player's investigation.
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Lumin
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Lumin »

I know less is sometimes more, but as a player it's always soooo obvious to me when an author is deliberately avoiding nouns. Perhaps because as Duncan pointed out, it's a bit of an unnatural writing style you're only going to come across in parser IF.

Though at the same time it can get a little tedious having to sit there and >X every noun in every location one after another (...admittedly, not as tedious as it was for the author!) because you're afraid you'll miss something vitally important if you don't. One that's always slightly bugged me is when that vitally important something is sitting on a table, but somehow invisible when you're taking a general look about the room... :roll:

Then again, whatever your approach, the most important factor is going to be consistency. If paying extremely close attention to detail is part of the challenge of the game that's fine, but get the player trained to do that as early on as possible. No boring placeholder descriptions like my tree example for half the game lulling the player into a false sense of security until suddenly taking the time to specifically examine the branches of a tree to notice there's even a bird's nest in the first place is necessary to win the game.
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Duncan_B »

Open challenge idea: make a parser-based IF that does not use a "look," "examine," or other sensory verb.
ralphmerridew
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by ralphmerridew »

I remember that the game "Hampton Manor" didn't have any "examine" descriptions. You could "look" and "read", though.
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Lumin
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Lumin »

It'd be easily doable. Any important objects would just have to be visible in the main room description and their function would have to be obvious at a glance.

Even if it were perfectly playable it'd be difficult to avoid that lazy half-implemented feel without any descriptions at all, though.

...or did you mean the player wouldn't be able to use 'look' in a room, either. Because that would be a lot more difficult, you'd probably have to get away from the traditional structure of an IF game entirely.
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Lazzah »

ralphmerridew wrote:I remember that the game "Hampton Manor" didn't have any "examine" descriptions. You could "look" and "read", though.
The first ever adventure game I ever played, "Sphinx Adventure", had no "examine" or "read" commands and all "look" would do is redescribe your current location.
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HanonO
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by HanonO »

Noob here. But check out Ryan Veeder's games for a study in minimal implementation that doesn't feel limited or encourage extensive sub-examining.
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P/o Prune
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by P/o Prune »

HanonO wrote:Noob here. But check out Ryan Veeder's games for a study in minimal implementation that doesn't feel limited or encourage extensive sub-examining.
Hi and welcome... :thanks:
Do you have a link?
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HanonO
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by HanonO »

Whoa! You scared me. I was starting to think this place was an archaeological dig!

But shure-nuff: http://ifdb.tads.org/search?searchbar=a ... archGo.y=0
Peter Pears
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Re: Scenery is boring - A solution!

Post by Peter Pears »

If you're feeling oldschool, you can also play the old Phoenix / Topologika games, where you can't examine anything...

...but the first example that really *leaps* to mind is Adventurer's Consumer Guide.
http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=snk6qx8hfn3xpm0a
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