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Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

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Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby NickyDude » Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:53 pm

Thinking about creating a game? Think you can throw some rooms together and create an adventure? Think again. In order to create a playable adventure you need to think how to set out your adventure. While what you do and how you do it is entirely up to you, here are some tips that other adventurers have found invaluable:

1: Create a map.
You'll save yourself a lot of headache if you create a map of your adventure before you begin, that way you can see what locations fit, where they lead too and you can draw objects / traps/ puzzles... so you have something to refer to. For example:

Image

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2: Describe your location, don't just tell it.
When creating locations for your adventure, try to imagine you're describing your room to someone on the phone who's never seen it, sure, you can describe the Drawing Room as having a red carpet, a wooden table and some chairs but that doesn't fire the imagination, it doesn't describe the room, it just tells you what's in it. So instead of this:

"You are in the Drawing Room, it's lined with red wallpaper and there is a large fire with two chairs in front. Exits are east, west, north and south"

try something like this:

"The drawing room is magnificently decorated, something you would not expect from the outside. Plush red wallpaper line every wall and the carpet is deep and lush. A large roaring fire dances in an exquisitely carved fireplace in front of which two comfortable looking chairs have been placed. A large crystal chandelier dangles from the center of the room throwing light on the many finely crafted portraits that adorn the walls. The portraits are varied but three in particular catch your eye. A middle-aged portly gentleman wearing half-moon glasses, a beautiful young woman wearing a tiara or an elderly woman with grey hair and a stern expression.

A large drinks cabinet stands in the northeast corner stacked with many glasses and decanters of various coloured liquids. You notice there are doors leading off to the north, south east and west."

Describe your location, don't just say what's in there.

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3: Always put descriptions for things you describe in your room.
When describing a location, remember to put descriptions of objects / things in that location, even if they're purely decorative. Take the following location:

"It seems like this porch has been in disrepair for some time, rotten planks, boards missing, moss everywhere, whoever lives here obviously doesn't expect visitors or doesn't have the time for repairs. Eyeing the door in front of you to the north, you notice it is large and foreboding, made of solid oak with intricate carvings, a bit different from the unrepaired porch. A large brass knocker in the shape of a dragon's head holding a ring stares at you, daring you to grasp it. What looks like a frayed bell-pull dangles to one side."

Things you'd could put descriptions for here would be:

Porch
planks
moss
front door
carvings
brass knocker
bell pull

There's nothing worse than typing: "examine <whatever>" only to be greeted with "You see no such thing." when it's clearly described in the description. Having said that, there's no need to try to describe everything in detail, you could easily say something like:

"Although interesting, it's of no importance to you."

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4: Use aliases to help catch the player's input.
In the above example, you would put aliases on some of the objects so the player doesn't have to try and find the exact wording. This is often known as 'Guess The Verb' or GTV for short. Here are those objects again, this time with alases so the player has more of a chance to get the correct input:

planks / boards /wooden floor
brass knocker / knocker / dragon's head / ring / brass ring
frayed bell-pull / bell-pull / bell pull

So if the player inputs one the following...

>examine brass knocker
>examine knocker
>examine dragon's head
>examine ring
>examine brass ring


...he will receive a description about the door knocker.

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5: Make the player's input obvious.
When the player has to do something, make what the player has to type in fairly obvious. For example, if the player needs to use the toilet have the input "use toilet" or "use lavatory". Don't have it so obscure that the player would never guess it, like "make a pitstop" or "take a leak". Again, this will eliminate most of the GTV and make your adventure more user friendly.

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6: Puzzles should have a reason.
When creating a puzzle, ask yourself why it should be there and is the solution at all plausible? Your puzzles don't have to be set in reality but shouldn't make the player think "what the hell!?".

It is plausible that a shaped amulet placed inside a shaped hole in a wall could open a secret passage.
It is plausible that uttering magic words next to an old tree might bring it to life.
It isn't plausible that the player should have to dance around on one leg with a wet fish in his ear just to unlock a door! "What the hell!?"

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7: Test Your Game Before It's Uploaded.

By David Whyld

Make sure it can be finished. Make sure the player doesn't need to be psychic to figure out which command to use. (Yes, I'm thinking of the MAKE PITSTOP command here.) Make sure the player knows what the aim of the game is (unless, of course, it's an amnesia victim game).

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8: Listen To What People Tell You.

By David Whyld

If it's your first game, then listen to other people if they tell you something about your game is wrong. They might be wrong themselves, but maybe not. Do not take it personal, we'd all love to see you create a good game.

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9: Make Your Game Sound Interesting.

By David Whyld

One recent game had an intro which went

WOW. I feel stupid. Don’t download this its unbeatable. I’ll fix it. I’m such a retard. Sorry.


I took one look at that and decided to avoid the game afterwards.

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10: Don't Upload Your Test Game.

By David Whyld

If you've just written a game to learn Adrift, only release it if it's a good game in its own right. The main site is getting overloaded with half-finished bugfests and there's no need to add to the problem.

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11: Audio in Adventures.
Pick your favourite game, any type of game, of any genre (Doom3? Warctaft III? Grand Theft Auto? Half-Life?), not just adventures , now turn down the sound and play it... it just doesn't play the same does it? So why should it be different with text adventure games?

Eh? Aren't text adventures by their very nature just text?


Ordinarily yes, but ADRIFT allows you to add images and sound to your adventure, lifting it from a simple text adventure editor into a multimedia text adventure so why should your adventure be just text and not give something more to the player?

The use of sound in an ADRIFT game is divided; on one hand it spoils your imagination when reading descriptions, you don't want some cheesy tune spoiling the atmosphere by constantly droning on plus it can lengthen the file size considerably which is not good news for those on dial-up; on the other, sound enhances the adventure by providing an atmospheric tune that plays on your imagination, spot effects can also provide extra atmosphere.

So what side am I on? The side of audio in adventures, spot effects but not tunes. Having a continuous tune throughout the adventure will spoil everything in my opinion, there's no sense of environment change; village, forest, mountain, caves, catacombs, all will have the same tune playing throughout and what type of tune should it be? happy?, spooky?, majestic?, climactic?

Creating spot effects, on the other hand, can really bring it to life, take the following location description:

"You shelter from the torrential rain in the porch. It seems like this porch has been in disrepair for some time, rotten planks, boards missing, moss everywhere, whoever lives here obviously doesn't expect visitors or doesn't have the time for repairs. Eyeing the door in front of you the north, you notice it is large and foreboding, made of solid oak with intricate carvings, a bit different from the un repaired porch. A large brass knocker in the shape of a dragon's head holding a ring stares at you, daring you to grasp it. What looks like a frayed bell-pull dangles to one side."

What spot effects do you think would fit here? Let's have a look: "You shelter from the torrential rain", the constant drone of rain with the occasional distant thunder; "A large brass knocker in the shape of a dragon's head holding a ring stares at you.." perhaps when the player uses the knocker you could have a few heavy, echoed thumps; "What looks like a frayed bell-pull dangles to one side.", the tinkly-clang if the bell-pull is pulled.

Here's an example (unfinished) adventure with the above audio: House Of Hell

As you can see, spot effects certainly do enhance a player's experience if used correctly and I would recommend them at least in one adventure just to see the difference.

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12: Make sure changes to the environment are reflected in your descriptions.

By phkb

So, if you chop down a tree, make sure there is a stump and a fallen tree in the room description.

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13: Objects have more than one use.
If you have an axe as a weapon... why can't it be used to chop down trees? If you have a bucket to hold water... why can't it be used as a makeshift helmet? Objects can have more than one use in an adventure game, be creative and people will enjoy your adventure more.

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In 1993 Graham Nelson wrote the Player's Bill of Rights which is an excellent guideline for developers. The following (14-30) are from that guide. Thanks to Dejaduo for supplying.

14: Not to be killed without warning

At its most basic level, this means that a room with three exits, two of which lead to instant death and the third to treasure, is unreasonable without some hint. Mention of which brings us to:

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

15: Not to be given horribly unclear hints

Many years ago, I played a game in which going north from a cave led to a lethal pit. The hint was: there was a pride of lions carved above the doorway. Good hints can be skilfully hidden, or very brief (I think, for example, the hint in the moving-rocks plain problem in "Spellbreaker" is a masterpiece) but should not need explaining even after the event.

A more sophisticated version of (1) leads us to:

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

16: To be able to win without experience of past lives

Suppose, for instance, there is a nuclear bomb buried under some anonymous floor somewhere, which must be disarmed. It is unreasonable to expect a player to dig up this floor purely because in previous games, the bomb blew up there. To take a more concrete example, in "The Lurking Horror" there is something which needs cooking for the right length of time. As far as I can tell, the only way to find out the right time is by trial and error. But you only get one trial per game. In principle a good player should be able to play the entire game out without doing anything illogical. In similar vein:

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

17: To be able to win without knowledge of future events

For example, the game opens near a shop. You have one coin and can buy a lamp, a magic carpet or a periscope. Five minutes later you are transported away without warning to a submarine, whereupon you need a periscope. If you bought the carpet, bad luck.

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18: Not to have the game closed off without warning

Closed off meaning that it would become impossible to proceed at some later date. If there is a papier-mache wall which you can walk through at the very beginning of the game, it is extremely annoying to find that a puzzle at the very end requires it to still be intact, because every one of your saved games will be useless. Similarly it is quite common to have a room which can only be visited once per game. If there are two different things to be accomplished there, this should be hinted at.

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

19: Not to need to do unlikely things

For example, a game which depends on asking a policeman about something he could not reasonably know about. (Less extremely, the problem of the hacker's keys in "The Lurking Horror".) Another unlikely thing is waiting in uninteresting places. If you have a junction such that after five turns an elf turns up and gives you a magic ring, a player may well never spend five turns there and never solve what you intended to be straightforward. On the other hand, if you were to put something which demanded investigation in the junction, it might be fair enough. ("Zork III" is especially poor in this respect.)

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20: Not to need to do boring things for the sake of it

In the bad old days many games would make life difficult by putting objects needed to solve a problem miles away from where the problem was, despite all logic - say, putting a boat in the middle of a desert. Or, for example, it might be fun to have a four-discs tower of Hanoi puzzle in a game. But not an eight-discs one.

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

21: Not to have to type exactly the right verb

For instance, looking inside a box finds nothing, but searching it does. Or consider the following dialogue (amazingly, from "Sorcerer"):

>unlock journal
(with the small key)
No spell would help with that!

>open journal
(with the small key)
The journal springs open.

This is so misleading as to constitute a bug. But it's an easy design fault to fall into. (Similarly, the wording needed to use the brick in Zork II strikes me as quite unfair. Or perhaps I missed something obvious.)

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

22: To be allowed reasonable synonyms

In the same room in "Sorcerer" is a "woven wall hanging" which can instead be called "tapestry" (though not "curtain"). This is not a luxury, it's an essential.

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23: To have a decent parser

This goes without saying. At the very least it should provide for taking and dropping multiple objects.

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24: To have reasonable freedom of action

Being locked up in a long sequence of prisons, with only brief escapes between them, is not all that entertaining. After a while the player begins to feel that the designer has tied him to a chair in order to shout the plot at him.

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

25: Not to depend much on luck

Small chance variations add to the fun, but only small ones. The thief in "Zork I" seems to me to be just about right in this respect, and similarly the spinning room in "Zork II". But a ten-ton weight which fell down and killed you at a certain point in half of all games is just annoying.

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

26: To be able to understand a problem once it is solved

This may sound odd, but many problems are solved by accident or trial and error. A guard-post which can be passed only if you are carrying a spear, for instance, ought to have some indication that this is why you're allowed past. (The most extreme example must be the notorious Bank of Zork.)

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27: Not to be given too many red herrings

A few red herrings make a game more interesting. A very nice feature of "Zork I", "II" and "III" is that they each contain red herrings explained in the others (in one case, explained in "Sorcerer"). But difficult puzzles tend to be solved last, and the main technique players use is to look at their maps and see what's left that they don't understand. This is frustrated when there are many insoluble puzzles and useless objects. So you can expect players to lose interest if you aren't careful. My personal view is that red herrings ought to have some clue provided (even only much later): for instance, if there is a useless coconut near the beginning, then perhaps much later an absent-minded botanist could be found who wandered about dropping them. The coconut should at least have some rationale.

The very worst game I've played for red herrings is "Sorcerer", which by my reckoning has 10.

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

28: To have a good reason why something is impossible

Unless it's also funny, a very contrived reason why something is impossible just irritates. (The reason one can't walk on the grass in "Trinity" is only just funny enough, I think.)

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29: Not to need to be American to understand hints

The diamond maze in "Zork II" being a case in point. Similarly, it's polite to allow the player to type English or American spellings or idiom. For instance "Trinity" endears itself to English players in that the soccer ball can be called "football" - soccer is a word almost never used in England.

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30: To know how the game is getting on

In other words, when the end is approaching, or how the plot is developing. Once upon a time, score was the only measure of this, but hopefully not any more.




There will be more to come... keep watching! :)
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Postby NickyDude » Wed Sep 03, 2008 9:54 am

Updated slightly.
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Postby Sprite » Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:42 am

Ooh, very nice, and all worth knowing.
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Postby CrypticWizard » Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:51 pm

What you said about room descriptions is definitely the case. I went back throuh a game I am working on and totally rewrote all the room descriptions, and added in objects for things mentioned in the description. So where before I had:

"You are just south of the castle. The drawbridge leads north into the castle."

I now have:

"You stand before the dark castle of Lord Haxor. It is truly a foreboding sight. Black towers reach toward the sky like skeletal fingers. The dark moat that surrounds the castle could be concealing any kind of horrible monstrosities. The drawbridge leads northward into the courtyard, through an open portcullis."

And I added descirptions for the castle, the towers, the moat, the drawbridge, and the portcullis. I think this might be the first game I ever felt good enough about to actually upload it (once it's finished).
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Postby NickyDude » Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:28 pm

Thanks CrypticWizard and it does sound better when you 'flesh' the descriptions out. :)

update: I've added the map back in the first help as I didn't realise it was missing.




Edited By NickyDude on 1264710558
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Postby NickyDude » Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Updated the Audio section to include an example downloadable game with audio. :)
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Postby ralphmerridew » Wed May 26, 2010 1:51 am

Don't put the text for onetime occurrences into a room description. Put them into a task or event instead.
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Postby CrypticWizard » Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:31 pm

[quote="ralphmerridew"][/quote]
A good point, ralphmerridew.

And also, make sure that when a player examines an "unimportant item" (like the moss, for example, in the hypothetical porch), be sure to set it as a repeatable task so that the player can examine the moss as much as (s)he likes (never mind why).
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby NickyDude » Fri May 27, 2011 11:57 am

Updated slightly.
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Room Descriptions

Postby Lazzah » Fri May 27, 2011 2:16 pm

CrypticWizard wrote:What you said about room descriptions is definitely the case. I went back throuh a game I am working on and totally rewrote all the room descriptions, and added in objects for things mentioned in the description. So where before I had:

"You are just south of the castle. The drawbridge leads north into the castle."

I now have:

"You stand before the dark castle of Lord Haxor. It is truly a foreboding sight. Black towers reach toward the sky like skeletal fingers. The dark moat that surrounds the castle could be concealing any kind of horrible monstrosities. The drawbridge leads northward into the courtyard, through an open portcullis."

And I added descirptions for the castle, the towers, the moat, the drawbridge, and the portcullis. I think this might be the first game I ever felt good enough about to actually upload it (once it's finished).


I have only just seen this thread and it has got me thinking. I am definitely not a newcomer to adventure creation, having started programming adventures in the late 1980's on the Acorn Electron, then the Sinclair Spectrum. In those days we had so little memory to utilise, location descriptions were exactly as you say, short and to the point, only mentioning objects that played a part in the game and the exits from the locations. I lost count of the times I had to go through the database of a game, cutting as much as I could from location and object descriptions and other messages in order to save the few bytes that would enable me to include another puzzle - gameplay was everything in those days, very few of the home-grown adventure authors went in in for detailed location descriptions.

Even though we have (potentially) unlimited resources with which to construct an adventure, I STILL keep the location descriptions fairly concise and don't tend to go in for detailed room descriptions. This is probably because, if I am honest, I don't have the literary skills to think up room descriptions as Nickydude suggests in sections 2 & 3 of his guide. However, I do know that I am good at thinking up puzzles, as I hope I have proved in the past in the games I wrote for the Spectrum and which I hope to convert onto the ADRIFT platform in the foreseeable future.

I am, though, now going to go through my adventure "Fortress of Fear" to see if I can flesh the locations out a bit!
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby Dejaduo » Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:36 am

In 1993 Graham Nelson wrote the Player's Bill of Rights which is an excellent guideline for developers.

1. Not to be killed without warning

At its most basic level, this means that a room with three exits, two of which lead to instant death and the third to treasure, is unreasonable without some hint. Mention of which brings us to:

2. Not to be given horribly unclear hints

Many years ago, I played a game in which going north from a cave led to a lethal pit. The hint was: there was a pride of lions carved above the doorway. Good hints can be skilfully hidden, or very brief (I think, for example, the hint in the moving-rocks plain problem in "Spellbreaker" is a masterpiece) but should not need explaining even after the event.

A more sophisticated version of (1) leads us to:

3. To be able to win without experience of past lives

Suppose, for instance, there is a nuclear bomb buried under some anonymous floor somewhere, which must be disarmed. It is unreasonable to expect a player to dig up this floor purely because in previous games, the bomb blew up there. To take a more concrete example, in "The Lurking Horror" there is something which needs cooking for the right length of time. As far as I can tell, the only way to find out the right time is by trial and error. But you only get one trial per game. In principle a good player should be able to play the entire game out without doing anything illogical. In similar vein:

4. To be able to win without knowledge of future events

For example, the game opens near a shop. You have one coin and can buy a lamp, a magic carpet or a periscope. Five minutes later you are transported away without warning to a submarine, whereupon you need a periscope. If you bought the carpet, bad luck.

5. Not to have the game closed off without warning

Closed off meaning that it would become impossible to proceed at some later date. If there is a papier-mache wall which you can walk through at the very beginning of the game, it is extremely annoying to find that a puzzle at the very end requires it to still be intact, because every one of your saved games will be useless. Similarly it is quite common to have a room which can only be visited once per game. If there are two different things to be accomplished there, this should be hinted at.

6. Not to need to do unlikely things

For example, a game which depends on asking a policeman about something he could not reasonably know about. (Less extremely, the problem of the hacker's keys in "The Lurking Horror".) Another unlikely thing is waiting in uninteresting places. If you have a junction such that after five turns an elf turns up and gives you a magic ring, a player may well never spend five turns there and never solve what you intended to be straightforward. On the other hand, if you were to put something which demanded investigation in the junction, it might be fair enough. ("Zork III" is especially poor in this respect.)

7. Not to need to do boring things for the sake of it

In the bad old days many games would make life difficult by putting objects needed to solve a problem miles away from where the problem was, despite all logic - say, putting a boat in the middle of a desert. Or, for example, it might be fun to have a four-discs tower of Hanoi puzzle in a game. But not an eight-discs one.

8. Not to have to type exactly the right verb

For instance, looking inside a box finds nothing, but searching it does. Or consider the following dialogue (amazingly, from "Sorcerer"):

>unlock journal
(with the small key)
No spell would help with that!

>open journal
(with the small key)
The journal springs open.

This is so misleading as to constitute a bug. But it's an easy design fault to fall into. (Similarly, the wording needed to use the brick in Zork II strikes me as quite unfair. Or perhaps I missed something obvious.)

9. To be allowed reasonable synonyms

In the same room in "Sorcerer" is a "woven wall hanging" which can instead be called "tapestry" (though not "curtain"). This is not a luxury, it's an essential.

10. To have a decent parser

This goes without saying. At the very least it should provide for taking and dropping multiple objects.

11. To have reasonable freedom of action

Being locked up in a long sequence of prisons, with only brief escapes between them, is not all that entertaining. After a while the player begins to feel that the designer has tied him to a chair in order to shout the plot at him.

12. Not to depend much on luck

Small chance variations add to the fun, but only small ones. The thief in "Zork I" seems to me to be just about right in this respect, and similarly the spinning room in "Zork II". But a ten-ton weight which fell down and killed you at a certain point in half of all games is just annoying.

13. To be able to understand a problem once it is solved

This may sound odd, but many problems are solved by accident or trial and error. A guard-post which can be passed only if you are carrying a spear, for instance, ought to have some indication that this is why you're allowed past. (The most extreme example must be the notorious Bank of Zork.)

14. Not to be given too many red herrings

A few red herrings make a game more interesting. A very nice feature of "Zork I", "II" and "III" is that they each contain red herrings explained in the others (in one case, explained in "Sorcerer"). But difficult puzzles tend to be solved last, and the main technique players use is to look at their maps and see what's left that they don't understand. This is frustrated when there are many insoluble puzzles and useless objects. So you can expect players to lose interest if you aren't careful. My personal view is that red herrings ought to have some clue provided (even only much later): for instance, if there is a useless coconut near the beginning, then perhaps much later an absent-minded botanist could be found who wandered about dropping them. The coconut should at least have some rationale.

The very worst game I've played for red herrings is "Sorcerer", which by my reckoning has 10.

15. To have a good reason why something is impossible

Unless it's also funny, a very contrived reason why something is impossible just irritates. (The reason one can't walk on the grass in "Trinity" is only just funny enough, I think.)

16. Not to need to be American to understand hints

The diamond maze in "Zork II" being a case in point. Similarly, it's polite to allow the player to type English or American spellings or idiom. For instance "Trinity" endears itself to English players in that the soccer ball can be called "football" - soccer is a word almost never used in England.

17. To know how the game is getting on

In other words, when the end is approaching, or how the plot is developing. Once upon a time, score was the only measure of this, but hopefully not any more.
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby NickyDude » Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:58 pm

Thanks! Those have been added to the first post and will also be added to an update to the pdf guide. :)
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:43 am

Chapter 8 of the DM4 (which includes the player's BOR) as a whole is a good advice for IF. http://www.inform-fiction.org/manual/html/ch8.html
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby Po. Prune » Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:50 pm

As a note to Davids Item 7:
It's a good idea to let you game rest for a week or two. I know it can be a pain in the lower regions, but I have learned from experience that when you return to your game, you'll have forgotten the "logic" in the game and thus be able to play it anew and discover quite a few errors you never even thought excisted.
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Re: Adventure Creation Tips for Newcomers

Postby MikeDesert » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:49 pm

I generally prefer short room descriptions like the old TRS-80 games, since I want to play your game, not read your novel. That said I am going to focus a bit more on my writing on my next game, but it will still be less than many games...
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