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Are static objects REALLY that important?

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Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:30 pm

I know even to suggest such a thing is borderline sacrilege for much of the IF community, but bear with me here.

Do we as a community put waaaay too much importance on describing every noun? That doesn't seem to be something the writers of classic IF concerned themselves with very much, but now failure to do so is considered an immediate indicator of a bad game with lazy writing.

But if a room--like, say, the player character's kitchen--is at least passably written, do you really feel it's necessary to examine every individual appliance to be able to envision your surroundings? Nine times out of ten, a kitchen is just a kitchen. Sure, I might sigh a bit and then dutifully go down the list typing x fridge, x counter,x oven, x stovetop, x cabinet, x sink, x dishes, x drawers, x floor, and then so on and so on with the sub-objects, but that's mainly out of fear I'll overlook some tiny yet absolutely-necessary-to-win-the-game detail tucked away in an insignificant sub-sub-object somewhere. If I had the author's assurance from the get-go that everything important would be up front and self evident, you can bet I'd take just a second to rifle through anything openable and then breeze right through to more interesting areas of the game, and you can bet I'd be grateful for it.

And that's just speaking as a player. As an author, I have found that there is nothing at all that saps my will to live like being in the zone, making my little map, writing out ten rooms and then realizing I've got to go back and create and describe 100+ objects...and that's not even counting the actually important ones that will need more detail.

For an example, here's a room chosen at random from my Open World WIP:

At a Crossroads

You stand before a weatherbeaten signpost at a junction in the Old King's Road and and survey the countryside unfolding for miles all around you. East and west, a wide, dusty path crosses the main road and leads through fields of brown stubble, graced here and there by freshly cut piles of golden hay that all but glow in the sunlight and permeate the air with their warm fragrance. Northwards the flat land begins to slope down and become dotted with trees until it runs up against the barely visible gleam of a lake, while to the south it rises into green hills, then further on and up into the distant Greyholm Mountains, wreathed as always in a smoky haze, the only thing which mars the vivid blue of the sky on this bright, cloudless day.


Obviously, this isn't a very important room. I think it does an okay job setting the scene, but it's only purpose is to take the player from Point A to B, C, D, or E. Yet just at a glance there's a dozen insignificant objects I'm required to describe, and God help me if I accidentally include nouns in any of their descriptions.

Only one of these objects actually matters.

So, here you go, Player, I've amended it like so:

At a Crossroads

You stand before a weatherbeaten signpost at a junction in the Old King's Road and and survey the countryside unfolding for miles all around you. East and west, a wide, dusty path crosses the main road and leads through fields of brown stubble, graced here and there by freshly cut piles of golden hay that all but glow in the sunlight and permeate the air with their warm fragrance. Northwards the flat land begins to slope down and become dotted with trees until it runs up against the barely visible gleam of a lake, while to the south it rises into green hills, then further on and up into the distant Greyholm Mountains, wreathed as always in a smoky haze, the only thing which mars the vivid blue of the sky on this bright, cloudless day.


You're welcome! Now you can continue on to fish at the lake or visit a farmer's market or discover the secret of the mountains instead of whipping out the ol' magnifying glass and examing each individual straw in the haystacks just in case I've hidden the needle required to beat the game there.

And now I can move on to describing the rest of the world! Just...400 or so more rooms to go... Image
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby R2T1 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:59 pm

One way I have seen elsewhere is to make a generic item eg. kitchen_items and add all the possible unimportant nouns as aliases of this item. Then you can give a single generic description that says something like - You give the 'item' a quick glance but as nothing appears out of the ordinary, you pass it over. (or words to that effect) The 'item' possibly being substituted by the noun in question.
Not knowing Adrift that well, :( I can't give the actual code for this, but hopefully you can build on this for yourself.
This way, you can concentrate on the important items that will require their own unique descriptions and wrap up the rest generically.
If you can use the substitution for 'item' too, it will make it look to the player that you have implemented each and every noun. :D
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby saabie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:56 am

I usually create an "examine %text%" task to change the default message from "You see no such thing" to "The %text% is not important" when the player tries to examine something that is not implimented as an object.

I do like the idea of highlighting anything that the player does need to examine.

The player can of course choose to turn on the highlighting of clickable links which does much the same thing (although personally I find the combined highlighting and underlining stands out a bit too much and is like those words are being SHOUTED out loudly)
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:57 am

I remember reading about the possibility of clickable links somewhere but how do you actually do that?

Even if to me, unless the entire game was playable with the mouse, going from both hands on the keyboard to the mouse and back again constantly seems like it'd be kind of annoying. I suppose if someone didn't have a problem typing simple commands with just their left hand it wouldn't be as much of an inconvenience though. (I feel like there might be some kind of joke to be made here about the AIF community, but this here is a classy internet forum so I'll pass...)

I'm already color coding exits since I don't like having them tacked on to the end of a description but I still want them to stand out for ease of reading, possibly I might do that with important objects too instead of bolding. It's tough finding colors that are both readable and don't cause eyestrain against that black background though...I really wish there was an option to force background color as well as text.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby ralphmerridew » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:58 am

There's a common trend in other systems to create "scenery objects"; in your case, an object with the words "fridge", "counter", "oven", etc. in the name field, and "That's just scenery." as a fall-through interaction. Occasionally, they will get a custom examine response (doable with parse_name trickery in I6; I don't know how to do this in I7).

I do agree that I tend to find random searching of scenery very annoying.

saabie: One problem with your system is that if the player typos a word, then ADRIFT pretends to understand the command when it didn't.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lazzah » Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Lumin wrote:Do we as a community put waaaay too much importance on describing every noun? That doesn't seem to be something the writers of classic IF concerned themselves with very much, but now failure to do so is considered an immediate indicator of a bad game with lazy writing.

When I was writing my games for the Acorn Electron and Sinclair Spectrum in the 1980's and 90's, it wasn't that describing every noun didn't concern us, it was the fact that the 8-bit computers of the day simply didn't have the memory to allow us to have a description for every noun - "You see nothing special" just had to do. I used to have a 128k Spectrum +3 and the PAW databases for my adventures used every single byte of memory available. If playtesters found something wrong that required a major re-write, I would find myself scouring the game file, trying to find words, even punctuation marks to delete to give me a few extra bytes to work with. We were in awe at the text adventures from the big software houses where you COULD examine everything and get a descriptive message.

You are dead right about players these days expecting a descriptive message for every noun in room description. My "Fortress of Fear" playtesters would point out EVERY noun which didn't have a description and I had to put one in. As in ADRIFT we have to use a static object, there are a total of over 1260 objects in the game, only a fraction of which are dynamic objects that the player can manipulate.

Lumin wrote:At a Crossroads

You stand before a weatherbeaten signpost at a junction in the Old King's Road and survey the countryside unfolding for miles all around you. East and west, a wide, dusty path crosses the main road and leads through fields of brown stubble, graced here and there by freshly cut piles of golden hay that all but glow in the sunlight and permeate the air with their warm fragrance. Northwards the flat land begins to slope down and become dotted with trees until it runs up against the barely visible gleam of a lake, while to the south it rises into green hills, then further on and up into the distant Greyholm Mountains, wreathed as always in a smoky haze, the only thing which mars the vivid blue of the sky on this bright, cloudless day.


(Sigh) I just WISH I had the skill to write a location description like that! Funnily enough, that could be the description for the first location in my WIP "The Axe of Kolt" - all I would need to do is substitute "Droomdark" for "Greyholm"! (Looks furtively around) I...ahem...think a quick re-write is on the cards here! :whistle:
The Axe of Kolt, The Spectre of Castle Coris, The Fortress of Fear, Die Feuerfaust, The Lost Children, Run, Bronwynn, Run, The Call of the Shaman, The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch, Magnetic Moon, Starship Quest, Revenge of the Space Pirates
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby saabie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:16 am

Lumin wrote:I remember reading about the possibility of clickable links somewhere but how do you actually do that?
In the runner select view/options on the menu.
Then tick the box "Display links on clickable items".

Lumin wrote:It's tough finding colors that are both readable and don't cause eyestrain against that black background though...I really wish there was an option to force background color as well as text.
On the same view/options dialog in the runner you can set your background color as well as the color of normal text, clickable links and the input line.
If you select a light colored background and try to play a game that has light colored text then there is also a box called "Allow text colors to be modified by games" that you can un-tick to force it to use the colors you selected.

ralphmerridew wrote:There's a common trend in other systems to create "scenery objects"; in your case, an object with the words "fridge", "counter", "oven", etc. in the name field, and "That's just scenery." as a fall-through interaction.
In ADRIFT 5 you can very quickly create a series of scenery objects from the contents page of a location.
For each object:
- Press the "Add static object" button.
- Give it a name
- Press OK
By leaving the description blank you are indicating that its a scenery object and ADRIFT will print "There is nothing special about the %object%.Name".

R2T1 wrote:One way I have seen elsewhere is to make a generic item eg. kitchen_items and add all the possible unimportant nouns as aliases of this item
You can add multiple nouns to one object by pressing enter in the noun field, so all of the scenery objects that don't need separate adjectives could be done with the one object.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:50 pm

Okay, so "You contemplate your surroundings" is my new generic default 'hey stop looking at that' message. And it's going to get applied to 99% of the scenery objects in my games...YES that might be a lazy cop-out, but I'm writing an entire continent worth of rooms here and it would be ridiculous, impossible, and insane to describe everything so I'm not even gonna try! :P

Saabie, I'm not seeing the option for the links. All I've got is, 'Add a blank line after every command', 'Display Short Location name' 'Enable Graphics', 'Enable Sound' and 'Always use my font'.

And when it is enabled it does what? Makes the player take exits and pick up dynamic objects? I wouldn't personally use it to play, but mainly I'm just curious, can it be tweaked from the developer side? (As in, tied to tasks for a specific message, etc?)

And I know you can change the background color in the runner, believe me, I do it for every game...what I meant is I wish that I, as the author could set the background color so it shows up automatically for the player in the same way I can change text color with font tags. Right now I'll probably just include a message in the beginning suggesting they change the background to white, but that's going to look odd for people playing with Gargoyle. (or whatever fancy interpreter the cool kids are using these days, I have no idea anymore...)

Lazzah wrote:(Sigh) I just WISH I had the skill to write a location description like that! Funnily enough, that could be the description for the first location in my WIP "The Axe of Kolt" - all I would need to do is substitute "Droomdark" for "Greyholm"! (Looks furtively around) I...ahem...think a quick re-write is on the cards here! :whistle:


Wow, thanks! And hey, no worries, it just so happens I've suddenly decided to license out that description for a mere $2500 USD. I'll expect your check in the mail any day now. :)

But seriously, thanks for the 'behind the scenes' info on writing the older games...my family's first computer was running Windows 95, I can't even fathom what it's be like to have a few words of text (and especially individual punctuation marks!) taking up a significant amount of hard drive space. :lol: If the community ever got active enough again to bring back Inside Adrift, you'd probably have some cool stories to tell about writing classic IF...
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:14 pm

Ahaha, okay, so it seems Po.Prune snuck over to the intfiction.org forum and reposted this. :shock:

Finn what have you dooooone? Image

rofl


But seriously, uh, it's definitely a different environment and I would have made the whole thing a lot more detailed and less conversational if I'd known anyone from over there was going to see it. And I probably wouldn't have used a specific example from my game...those guys usually despise fantasy and more or less seem to have a completely different definition of what a 'game' is. And they all suffer from an inability to not sound like a college professor. And they can be kind of mean. Image

Anyway, the reaction is about what I expected so far, but it'll definitely be an interesting thread to follow.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lazzah » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:42 pm

Lumin wrote:But seriously, thanks for the 'behind the scenes' info on writing the older games...my family's first computer was running Windows 95, I can't even fathom what it's be like to have a few words of text (and especially individual punctuation marks!) taking up a significant amount of hard drive space.

"Hard drive space"?! Ha! I'm talking here about ye olden tymes when data storage was on cassette tapes! I would have two or three tapes to save my work on in case one (or more) failed to load. You 21st C authors don't know how lucky you are! :wink:
The Axe of Kolt, The Spectre of Castle Coris, The Fortress of Fear, Die Feuerfaust, The Lost Children, Run, Bronwynn, Run, The Call of the Shaman, The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch, Magnetic Moon, Starship Quest, Revenge of the Space Pirates
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:55 pm

But...but...how do you program on a cassette?! Cassettes were those things I had to record songs off the radio with and then they would get all tangled up and eat my music! You can't type on them! That doesn't even make any sense! :?

You must just be going senile. Because you're extremely old, you see. :wink:
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby P/o Prune » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:06 pm

Lumin wrote:But...but...how do you program on a cassette?! Cassettes were those things I had to record songs off the radio with and then they would get all tangled up and eat my music! You can't type on them! That doesn't even make any sense! :?

You must just be going senile. Because you're extremely old, you see. :wink:


Careful there! Aaarggh
I'm not that much younger than Lazzah... and I'm a moderator! :P
But it's true.. You had a cassette recorder hooked up to your computer and then you loaded the games from it. The same when you saved your game.
It took forever and a day... I don't mind the forever bit so much. But that extra day is a real pain in the neck! :O
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lazzah » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:37 pm

Po. Prune wrote:But it's true.. You had a cassette recorder hooked up to your computer and then you loaded the games from it. The same when you saved your game. It took forever and a day... I don't mind the forever bit so much. But that extra day is a real pain in the neck! :O

ISTR that if the load failed (as frequently happened!) on the Sinclair Spectrum you had to rewind the tape and start again from the beginning. It was SO frustrating if you had been sitting there for 10 minutes waiting for the data to load and it failed right at the very end!! The Spectrum + 2 with its integral tape deck was notorious for tape loading failures as you had no volume or tone control at all. I had a +2 SPECIALLY for testing game tapes that I had just copied - if the tape loaded OK on my +2 it'll load on anything!

On the (less popular) Acorn Electrom and BBC B computers you just had to rewind the tape to just before where it missed and just start loading again. You used to see these letters and numbers (hexadecimals?) changing at the top of the (TV) screen as the data loaded (no monitors in those days!) You could hear the data loading as wierd whistles and "white noise".

By the way, we are talking here about the good old days of the "home-grown" text adventure market in the 1980's and early 90's when the authors would sell their games from home, like I did. Ah, such nostalgia!!!
The Axe of Kolt, The Spectre of Castle Coris, The Fortress of Fear, Die Feuerfaust, The Lost Children, Run, Bronwynn, Run, The Call of the Shaman, The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch, Magnetic Moon, Starship Quest, Revenge of the Space Pirates
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby saabie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:46 pm

Wow, actual electromagnetism, how modern.
I still have the first program I ever wrote. Its on a roll of paper tape with a hole punched in it for each BIT :haha:

It ran on a REAL computer that had its own air-conditioned room, high speed tape drives with vacuum colombs, and a panel with several hundred switches with which you setup the boot program by hand one bit at a time. rofl
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lazzah » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:02 pm

saabie wrote:Wow, actual electromagnetism, how modern.
I still have the first program I ever wrote. Its on a roll of paper tape with a hole punched in it for each BIT :haha:

It ran on a REAL computer that had its own air-conditioned room, high speed tape drives with vacuum colombs, and a panel with several hundred switches with which you setup the boot program by hand one bit at a time. rofl

Blimey, you must be ancient! I remember we had a "computer room" at the government office where I worked in the mid-1980's. I remember peering in over the half-door and seeing the huge reels of tape spinning around and panels of lights. It looked like it was straight out of "Time Tunnel"!!! :haha:
The Axe of Kolt, The Spectre of Castle Coris, The Fortress of Fear, Die Feuerfaust, The Lost Children, Run, Bronwynn, Run, The Call of the Shaman, The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch, Magnetic Moon, Starship Quest, Revenge of the Space Pirates
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