There’s not a standard way to enter passwords and interact with computers in IF, which is why I’ve gotten around it in other areas with things like buttons or keypads or levers. But I’d like to make this just a normal laptop.
What would be your prefered way for entering a password? Some options I can think of are:
‘TYPE [password]’ or ‘ENTER [password]’
‘TYPE [password] on computer/keyboard’ or ‘ENTER [password] on computer/keyboard’
Typing keys individually ‘PRESS A. PRESS C.’ etc.
Typing some command that opens up a different prompt (like USE COMPUTER followed by:
What is the password? >)
Just “[password]” (typing in the password as a command works if you’re around the laptop
What do you like in a game?
Right now I have an out-of-world message in brackets when you examine the laptop:
'blah blah blah this is a laptop
[You can try entering the password by typing ATTEMPT PASSWORD]"
And if you type ATTEMPT PASSWORD it’s like this:
Enter Password for Antonio Yang. >adsf
"Incorrect password," says the laptop.
The nice thing is this makes it very explicit how to use the laptop so the player doesn’t fumble around. On the other hand, it kind of breaks immersion having the message in brackets. What do you prefer?
Trying to think of various game situations where this could occur, I think that in an average situation I’d like an X LAPTOP to lead to a description followed by a prompt where I can enter a password, and if I just hit return then that obviously wasn’t the right password. I feel like that bringy some momentum into the scene. On the other hand there might be situations where it’s important to give the player the feeling that a wrong password has negative consequences - in that case I’d prefer to start the password entry myself. Or a situation where it’s clear that the correct password entry solves a crucial puzzle or an entire scene - in that case an automatic entry prompt would feel a bit casual to me.
Another idea would be to make the laptop voice-activated, and then you can say the password. (I’m not sure if that would be any better or easier. Just another idea.)
I agree that having specific out-of-world instructions on how to enter a command is better and less immersion-breaking than guess-the-verb. I don’t mind specific instructions. I might put them in italics instead of brackets, but that’s a personal preference.
Because the temporary barrier is the first real puzzle the player faces, it is especially important to handle all attempts at interaction as clearly as possible. In addition, the point of the puzzle is to figure out how to get the code, not to make the player do fiddly things – so anything that could reasonably be construed as an attempt to use the code once it’s been discovered should be redirected towards opening.
One of the things I set out to do with the puzzle system in my previous game Savoir-Faire was to duplicate all the dull standard puzzles I was sick of seeing, but with some new twist on them that hadn’t been done before. The one that there was really no way to include, however, was the password puzzle: too many IF games use password puzzles as a form of riddle (where you have to guess on the basis of some hints) or a cheap search puzzle (where the answer is written down on a note near the computer). Never in IF does anyone follow good security protocols with strong passwords that aren’t written down.
So, I thought, what about a puzzle where people do use fairly unguessable passwords, but the whole concept of a ‘password’ is compromised by some other law of the universe?
EDIT: The second sample uses the Computers extension.
I miiight suggest that PRESS A. PRESS C. (with single letters) could be omitted. There’s potential confusion between PRESS A, TYPE A, PRESS ACCARDI, TYPE ACCARDI and it might be better overall not to lead players down that path.
I just had a look at what I did when I made a password-protected computer. It looks like I went the route of having “type password on computer” as the main action, with synonyms covering everything I could think of, including a few weird ones. I know you were a tester, Mathbrush, so you might have suggested one or two of these synonyms in the first place!
Typing it on is an action applying to one topic and one touchable thing.
Understand "type [text] on [something]" and "type in [text] on [something]" and "guess [text] on [something]" and "try [text] on [something]" and "input [text] on [something]" and "enter [text] on [something]" and "password [text] on [something]" and "give [text] to [something]" as typing it on.
(now that I look at this again, it’s missing the reasonable synonym “type password INTO computer”. Oh well.)
Plus a couple of extra actions for less specific attempts: one for just “type password” which tries to redirect the input to the nearest computer-type object, and one for just “type” which asks the player to say what they want to type in an out-of-world message (which may not be what you want if you’re trying to avoid immersion-breaking messages to the player).
Singular-typing is an action applying to one topic.
Understand "type [text]" and "type in [text]" and "guess [text]" and "try [text]" and "input [text]" and "enter [text]" and "password [text]" and "give [text]" as singular-typing.
Carry out singular-typing:
if a computer (called the target) is touchable:
say "(typing '[the topic understood]' on [the target])";
try typing the topic understood on the target;
say "You don't see anything to type that on."
Objectless-typing is an action applying to nothing.
Understand "type" as objectless-typing.
say "[bypass every turn][italic type][bracket]Type what? You'll need something to type, and something to type on, e.g. TYPE TEXT ON COMPUTER, or just TYPE TEXT if you're near a computer.[close bracket][roman type][paragraph break]"
I think this scattergun approach worked in the end, but I’m not sure because I forgot to download the player transcripts while the game was in IFComp. I don’t remember the computers being a complaint though.
I’m inclined towards just password, because programmatically can follow Clarke’s 3rd principle and behave like the most-abused magic word, teleporting the player into the shell, implemented as a room where the only valid commands are the shell ones (this allow a nifty set of trickery, EXAMINE became MORE/TYPE/&c. LOOK became DIR/LS and so on, abusing doer/instead…)
This one gets my vote. I’ve used it myself and I’m sure I’ve played other games that have used it and it felt pretty intuitive. You could optionally provide for the indirect object (e.g. ON LAPTOP, ON COMPUTER, WITH KEYBOARD) and even allow for manual implicit actions. I tend to do that a lot nowadays.
Like others have said so far, as many as you can. Usually I’d do >TYPE [password] ON COMPUTER, though if the computer is important or complex or includes AI (basically more complex than a laptop), I might use the command version: >COMPUTER, THE PASSWORD IS [password]. That one would be very difficult, I can imagine.