Can adverbs as a part of the player’s command be used successfully in a medium-long interactive fiction? (eg. dance perkily, whisper lustfully, go slowly east)
One way I envision, is for the player to earn adverbs as they proceed, which then allow them to solve puzzles by doing the same actions as before but in a different way (carefully or hastily, for example). This way, it foregrounds which of the thousands of possible adverbs are salient to the story.
I think you’d want to limit the number of available adverbs quite harshly. The adverb-using games I’ve seen thus far (Forever Always, Danse Nocturne) have gone for scope, but they’ve been able to do that because they’re very short and really only present a single adverb-searching problem.
The other trick is that the game would probably have to be about social actions: it doesn’t generally matter whether you unlock a door angrily, but the manner of conversation and performance are critical. And games about negotiating social environments are tricky. But I’m all in favour of people making more of them.
I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. It usually doesn’t matter whether you unlock a door angrily, but it might very very be important to do so quickly or quietly. Some adverbs make more sense for social interactions, others for mechanical tasks, others for different type of activities (listen carefully, for example).
There’s a lot of things that could be done (taking lustfully, closing a door angrily) which could change how other characters react to the player. In this way, you could have richer non-conversational social elements in a game. (This itself is an area where IF could expand).
Also, there’s a lot of scope for giving alternative descriptions depending on how you look at something. Maybe in a timed section, examining quickly wouldn’t take any time, while examining carefully would take a few turns, and they’d both give different information.
In a game where you can use an adjective for any action and there a wide range of verbs available, I think (as maga suggests), the number of adverbs should be kept short- or if extensive they should be fully known to the player. This would help avoiding it being a guess-the-adverb game.
Not that there isn’t room for guess-the-adverb games, but even in Danse Nocturne (which is essentially just that) many of the more fruitful adverbs are strongly clued in the text.
Once we conquer adverbs, we’ll move on to guess-the-preposition! (We already kinda have that with look on vs. look under vs. look behind…)
I’m sort of flinching as I read this, because… one of the nice things about EXAMINE is that it can mean whatever you want it to. It can just give some more specific details about what the PC has already seen, it can make the player actively take some time to look closely at something (possibly involving reading documents, trying door-handles, etc.), it can provoke memories or opinions.
This is why EXAMINE is overwhelmingly the most commonly-used verb; it can do whatever the author wants it to do, and this changing of sense goes largely unnoticed by the player – because in real life we can switch smoothly between a lot of those functions. Adverby EXAMINE would (by default, unless you have a trick up your sleeve to manage this) be like switching from automatic transmission to manual. (Finer control, in theory, but everybody who’s used to automatic will be miserable.)
I’m all in favour of doing cool, wacky things with EXAMINE. I’ve tried 'em myself. But don’t underestimate how big a deal this would be: it is, uh, perhaps not the most prudent thing to tackle when you’re already dealing with an unusual design approach.
Tangentially: in my private-eye WIP I’ve moved most conversation to intent-and-tone-implying verbs (interrogate, flirt, comfort, cajole, etc) rather than topics, which suits my design style It requires careful tracking of events and context, but I like the results so far …
I guess my first question is, how are you going to go about educating your players that this type of input is useful? Because nobody is going to do it unless you nudge them in the right direction – they’re just going to blunder on, wondering why they’re failing to find the right commands.
If you think about it, (verb + adverb) is a more refined or specific form of (verb), so we’re back at guess-the-verb, only with complications. The player won’t know whether ‘pat the bunny’ is sufficient by itself, or whether ‘pat the bunny gently’ is necessary in this particular situation.
My second question is, how will such a scheme enhance the game? I could see that some puzzle or other might be more realistic (‘pick up the nitroglycerine carefully’ or ‘pull the chain hard’), but I can’t see that requiring the player to figure this out actually enhances gameplay. I would think that if the response to the ordinary command ‘pick up nitroglycerine’ is “Moving with exquisite gentleness and caution, you lift the nitroglycerine off of the table,” the same dramatic effect is achieved, and without annoying the player.
But that’s just me. I’m an old-school type of guy. YMMV.
RE: Changing Examining
I take the point that it could be jarring, especially for seasoned players. Also, we don’t want players to feel compelled to examine everything in three different ways. However, a time based game could be made around the mechanic: you’ve got five minutes to investigate the Count’s study, you know you can look at things quickly or slowly and you have to decide where to divide your attention. If the player is forewarned about the mechanics then it could be quite a fun puzzle/small game.
Or you could have different adverbs always on by default (then it could act like an extra kind of verbose setting).
RE: Educating the Player
If you’re playing Skyrim or Rayman or Civ 7, then nobody minds being told ‘push x to jump’ or ‘left click to select units’ at the start of play. There seems a considerable reticence in many text games to be so explicit about how to actually play the game. If doing things angrily, hastily or gently is important for a game then you can just tell the player as much (perhaps in a little pop-up box?)
For art’s sake, you can disguise the advice in-game by having NPCs or other devices teach the player.
As for what it might add to a game: I don’t think all or even most games could fruitfully make use of such a device, but I think adverbs have something to add if you have a game where doing things in different ways is important (for example: because you’re being watched, because there’s a time limit, because you’re a diplomat or actor and the game is enriched by allowing different ways of acting), or it’s a game in which you must manipulate both the tone and content of the game world to progress.
Simply adding a layer of guess the adverbs (patting bunnies ‘gently’ when there’s no other use of ‘gently’ in the game), would of course be annoying.
(Oh and Ghalev: Your approach sounds interesting. I’m curious, how do let the player know which conversation verbs work in the game?)
Via several means ranging from subtle coaching in error responses to overt tutorial information for those who request it to a straightforward list of necessary verbs in the online menu. The usual, really.
The intention is that only the idea needs to be taught explicitly, and that the boundaries of the system should remain shrouded from the player unless the player chooses to banish that shroud to reduce the game’s difficulty (an explicit option). Testing (when it comes time for testing) will let me know if this intent has any merit at all. If testing reveals otherwise, I’ll adjust to suit.
A nice thing about IF is that you can set the “tone” of the story by carefully choosing what you put in descriptions, including descriptions of the player’s actions. Some pretty cool effects can be had when the PC and the player are not quite on the same page, although if there is too much dissonance, it does kinda ruin the experience for some. (I can recall many games where I didn’t like the PC at all; in a few instances, this was creepily effective; in many, it just made me hate the game.) “Slouching Towards Bedlam” had a subtle take on this which I thought was genius.
This is a pretty common narrative trick in suspense/thriller films; the protagonist knows (or should know) something the viewer does not. I find it tedious in films by now, but since IF is interactive, it has some great potential which I think could still stand to be plumbed further. I have been surprised and impressed by those games in which the PC has some motive I didn’t know about; there are a good handful of these by now, but few enough that I still get surprised by them.
Obviously, if you grant the player the ability to tweak adverbs, you’d lose this control over the story. So I suppose it would work best in games with multiple plot tracks and multiple endings. That would be a lot more work to write, but potentially give the game some additional “replay value.” You could, I suppose, offer adverbs in a one-track story with only one ending, but not all the adverbs work (or the story reacts so they all have similar effects), but then I’d have to wonder why you bothered to put in such a feature.
p.s. As for “EXAMINE,” it drives me nuts when “x object,” “search object,” and “look in object” (for open containers or mirrors) have different results, because I don’t want to type multiple commands just to get all the information about the item. So I’d make them all the same, none of this “Examine briefly” or “examine closely,” unless you have a really good reason not to (eg, a game with a strict time limit, where different actions take different amounts of time).
I agree with this, in general. I’m fine with examine not telling me everything about an object, but there’s a natural nesting method which suits the form well, where you can examine details revealed by EXAMINE. (x pottery The pots are empty, but bear curious designs depicting the Battle of Floon. x designs They’re similar to the tapestries you noticed in the entry hall, but something strikes you as odd about the soldiers. x soldiers At first you can’t quite place it, but then you’re certain: there are four soldiers in these images; there were only three in the tapestry version x fourth He seems to be wearing the Fabled Backpack of Flarn!)
Which is not to say that i’m down on the adverbs thing. but having adverbed variants of EXAMINE be necessary would, I think, feel more like a gimmick being shoved between me and the game experience, rather than a fun new toy to play with (of course, with sufficiently brilliant game design and/or writing, I could change my tune on this or anything).
On a practical level, do any of the standard systems include a parser which can handle adverbs, or would an author have to write his own parser (or do extensive customization) in order to able to go down this road?
Given that you’d want to restrict the number of available adverbs quite strictly, I don’t really see what advantages it’d give over a package of EXAMINE-like verbs (SCRUTINISE, GLANCE, WATCH). Which could be annoying, but it’s still a whole lot less annoying than typing an adverb on the end.
Broadly: if you have to teach the player to learn a new term, it’s prima facie better to teach a verb than an adverb. If you want to include adverbs as anything other than a gimmick, you need to furnish a good reason why extra verbs wouldn’t do.
The annoyance of typing an adverb could be tackled on two fronts. First, you can allow abbreviations for the adverbs. So:
shake baby v
q x bee
Could be ‘shake the baby vigorously’ and ‘quickly examine the bee’.
Second, you can set defaults for the adverbs. If someone did decide to implement carefully/quickly examining, this could act essentially as a verbose setting but instead of for room descriptions, it would be for item descriptions. This would only really make sense if you had different levels of information for items, some quite detailed, and you didn’t want a text-dump every time you looked at something.
(examining the bee quickly)
The bee is a small yellow and black insect, and it’s buzzing in the vicinity of you.
x bee closely
The bee is a small flying insect closely related to wasps and ants, and generally they are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax, although you have no idea about this particular bee’s proclivity in these areas. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants. This particular bee is buzzing in the vicinity of you.
In this latter case you could adopt a dual pronged approach and allow people to use new verbs (‘scrutinise’ and ‘glance’ perhaps) for those people that are reticent about adverbs.