Are look at, examine, and search the same?

When building a game, should these verbs be linked together so they always share the same meaning?

It’s up to you, I guess. If you’re asking for opinions, LOOK AT and EXAMINE are almost always the same. SEARCH is usually not the same.

I personally think they all should have differnt meanings, just as they do in real life.

Look gives you a general description.
Look at give you more details.
Examine is similar to look at, only it gives you a more defined description.

There is a vase here.
Look at vase
The vase has a pattern of red wavy lines.
You see a piece of it is missing.
Examine vase
The wavy lines go all around the vase.

Search is something completely different.

There is a vase here.
Look at vase
The vase has a pattern of red wavy lines.
You see a piece of it is missing.
Search for missing piece
While looking for the missing piece, you find a clue for your next destination.

In Inform, “look at” and “examine” trigger the examining action, while “search” triggers the searching action.

It would be fine to make a game in which “search” just maps onto examining, though. It becomes less and less standard to force players to search for things.

The default behavior of searching and examining is closely related, too; by default you can’t search anything but containers and supporters, and searching them by default lists their contents, as does examining them. (Compare the examine supporters rule, the examine containers rule, the standard search containers rule, the standard search supporters rule, and the can’t search unless container or supporter rule.) There are some minor variations – I just noticed that my rule for printing the room description details of the desk fired when searching it but not when examining it – but nothing too major, I think. The big difference comes when you write custom rules for some of the actions, like this:

Barn is a room. "A barn with a large messy haystack in the corner." A haystack is scenery in the barn. The description of the haystack is "Large and messy." The needle is a thing. Instead of searching the haystack: say "After much digging, you find the needle!"; move the needle to the player. When play begins: say "Now where could that needle be?"

But as Victor said, redirecting “search” to “examine” in all cases would be fine.

I once used a concept that is essentially Matt W’s example. The game contained some shelves, which, at first glance, held only a bunch of non-descript stuff. Examining them didn’t tell you anything additional, but if you searched them it made a specific object appear. One play-testing comment that I got was that this made the item too easy to miss, because “search,” as distinct from “examine,” is not likely to be something that players try as a matter of course.

In the early days, my recollection is that “searching” was something that you might not try on every object, but if you ran into a roadblock and started going back to see what you might have missed, searching was one of the things that you would definitely try. (I have a very vague recollection that one of the early locations in Adventure – or maybe it was Zork? – required you to search a bunch of leaves in order to find something under them; examining the leaves did not do the trick.) These days, I guess that approach is somewhat out of fashion, but personally I don’t have trouble with the idea that a player might find himself stuck and have to go back over territory already covered, including searching, in an effort to find something that might not have been discovered the first time (although it could have been discovered if the player had thought of it). In fairness to the play-tester who gave me the comment, the particular item in my game was not one whose absence would cause the kind of roadblock that might cause the player to start searching things, even under the “old” approach.

Robert Rothman

I’d expect a heavy clue from the examine that search would be necessary, and that usually means that some further examination should serve the same purpose. That is, if I look at the shelves, and only see random clutter, I’m not going to look further. I only remember SEARCH exists if the game elbows me pretty hard. In general, I expect a second examination (clued by the first or some other part of the game) to turn up necessary clues.

I’ve been stymied in a couple of games because I forgot that “search” was a standard verb. And I’ve breezed through similar puzzles in other games because I remembered it was.

I considered remapping SEARCH to EXAMINE in my WIP, but since searching is an important action in my game, it didn’t quite feel right. I ended up compromising: the PC will automatically search a hiding spot after examining it, as long as she’s close enough to touch it. I wasn’t worried about players not realising they had to search things, since the scenario makes that pretty clear. I just felt that wandering about typing EXAMINE X. SEARCH X. over and over again was unnecessarily grindy. And in terms of character motivations, it hardly made sense for the PC to run about looking at things without searching them.

I believe that in Inform and many other systems, “look in” and “look through” also parse as the searching action. So “look through window” will trigger a searching action, for example, while “examine window” might be more likely to describe the window itself. That’s the only place where I think the searching action still makes sense.

I have a game in which there is a microscope, which the player might reasonably want to “look through.” Not wanting to go to the trouble of creating a separate “looking through” action and redefining the “look through” command, and thinking that it would pretty unusual for a player actually to try to “search” the microscope, I triggered the “You see an amoeba” response to “searching” the microscope. If anybody actually tries to search it (instead of using the looking through" command) that reponse will seem pretty strange.

Robert Rothman

im just a tad annoyed that there is no “look out”, which is weird when u make a window and a player wants to “look out window”, instead they have to “look through” window. idk. maybe its an eastern-shore thing. and please, correct me if im mistaken. :nerd:

There is. At least by default in Tads. And I imagine it’s trivial to map it in Inform too.

yeah, its not automatically there in inform7, but youre right, its just a line or two of code to throw it in. but im lazy. i want everything done for me!!! AND ON A SILVER PLATTER, DAMMIT!

thank u.