Allowing the player to ask WHO AM I, etc.

I’m strongly thinking about implementing this in my WIP for two reasons - a) I’m under the impression that inputting questions about the game world is something newbie players are likely to do, and b) I think it could very helpful for people learning English. Someday I would like to use IF in the classroom somehow.

Anyway, I couldn’t find much advice about the best way for the game to respond to these questions. The main issue I’m thinking of is having the game notice the difference between WHAT IS THE MAGAZINE and WHAT IS A MAGAZINE. These really aren’t the same question, especially for second-language learners. I’m afraid that guaranteeing a sensible response to the second question will involve a lot of extra coding.

For that particular problem, what about a brief paragraph of general object-type description, followed by a brief paragraph of specific details?

ie, "A magazine is a group of articles and pictures, usually published monthly. Most magazines have a single subject, like fashion or football.

This magazine appears to be devoted to yachts."

I think this would work well not just for ESL’s, but for the distinction between US & British English. I remember playing Planetfall as a kid & wondering just what a ‘spanner’ was. :laughing:

That’s a pretty good solution. For now though I’ve decided to go with printing the object’s description if a definite article was used, and printing a definition of the word if the indefinite article was used. The generic response to WHAT IS A MAGAZINE is “That hardly requires explanation.” So then the author could override that by providing an actual definition.

In some cases, I guess, the generic question could be put without use of the indefinite article, though: What is water? What are hamsters?
(And in some cases, I guess, the specific question, too, can be put without using the definite article: Who is Emily Short? What is Bohemia?)

Good points. Thanks for pointing them out! For questions involving proper nouns I don’t think it really matters. For the other cases I’ll have to think about how to handle it in terms of coding.

Something else to consider is that even ESL players may have gotten into the habit of leaving out articles, and it’s generally acceptable to do so (">TAKE LAMP").

It seems odd that the help feature would be more picky about this than the general parser.

True, but something else I’m thinking of is, for the ESL version, either forcing the use of grammatically correct sentences or having the parser point out errors such as dropped articles.