Best way to respond to a standard rules action that is never used

This is a design opinion question. Can be answered from an authoring and/or a player point of view.

It has to do with responses for Inform 7 standard command that will never be used in the given game.

For example, the waking action in a game that never has sleeping characters.

Which solution do you prefer and why:

  1. Having the commands disabled and getting a “I didn’t understand that sentence.” response
  2. Leaving the default messages of “That seems unnecessary.” and “You can only do that to something animate.”
  3. Customized messages matching the style of the game.


[waking up]

The dreadful truth is, this is not a dream.

[waking up - failed the block waking up rule]



You aren’t feeling especially drowsy.

[sleeping - failed the block sleeping rule]

This isn’t bad as default. Is there anything in your game that would warrant customized messages? Does the story refer to sleeping and waking up such the player might try it?

Your preference. It’s easy enough to customize this if you like.

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This is a situation where you have no reason to think the player would try the command.

I mean, you can’t predict 100% which is why beta testing is so useful. But there are players that like to try out unusual commands just to see what happens.

The other gray area is those commands that a player might try out that the author didn’t predict. But, yeah, I’m just focused on commands you are almost certain the player won’t try.

I think the answer to the original question depends on the nature of the game.

If the characterisation of the PC is really strong, or the point of the game, my ideal situation is to make custom messages for everything, or almost everything, in the PC-appropriate voice.

If the PC is a blank slate type, or not a blank slate but there to solve a puzzle/challenge-heavy Typical adventure - then you may just want to vet the standard responses (try them in the game to see them in context) to see if any are out of tone with the game. You can leave messages that are clear, or tonally appropriate, alone, and just fix ones that don’t fit the tone. A typical example is the ‘throwing things (at?)’ response, which says ‘Futile.’ If your PC is a real go-getting-puzzle-buster, suddenly being told that trying to throw something is simply futile may arrive like a stale meal.

I’d only go to ‘didn’t understand’ if you’ve drastically cut the commands available in the game. And then I wouldn’t even use it - I’d reroute the blocked commands to a useful message reminding of the cut-down command set.



I mean it depends – not least on how much time and energy you have to implement responses to stuff players almost certainly won’t try, but also on the voice you’re going for. Something like Lost Pig, where the conceit is that the player character doesn’t have sophisticated language skills and the parser replies in kind, will obviously suffer a blow if the player types “WAKE” and gets that bit of dry English humor. Many other games will not so, so the author’s time might be better spent elsewhere.

As Hanon says, this is all pretty easy to customize.

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Oh yeah, the customization support in Inform 7 is great. Makes it very easy.

I’m just looking for opinions and for different approaches. Why authors pick one solution versus another and the reasons behind those different choices. There’s no one right answer but the discussion is helpful for me so I appreciate the input.

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The default response to WAKE is a survival from Curses. Personally I find it disconcerting to receive messages that are recognizably in Graham’s voice in a game which isn’t. There are a few such messages in the Standard Rules, though most of the defaults are fairly neutral.


If the default (option 2) is inappropriate, I tend to have a mix of “I don’t understand” (option 1) and custom messages (option 3), depending on the verb and the game. The beauty of option 1 is that the player knows not to waste time using that verb in future. The beauty of option 3 is that you can add more character to the game to fit the atmosphere (horror, humour etc.)

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