Room descriptions are fun, I think all authors struggle with them, but my question is: If you change something in a room description where should you put it? I’ve always tried to squeeze it in at the bottom. But will people see this? When I play games I mostly read the room description once.
So how do other people play? And are there any practices that people follow about this sort of thing?
Thanks for the help - D
I like to put new stuff and room changes at the bottom after a paragraph break which hopefully changes the “shape” of the text enough to alert the user something is new.
Another thing I’ve done is to shorten a longer description after the player sees it once into a briefer version which they can then click on (or examine details of in parser) to view fully again.
I used both techniques in Cannery Vale for the initial hotel room description and subsequent beach visits.
I hear you with trying to change the “shape” of the text. That’s exactly what I try to do, but I’m not sure if people really notice as they fly through these games. At least with me, I’ll get an idea in my head and try to execute it. I could blow past two or three rooms with changed descriptions and never see them.
I’d say that if something changes and you want the player to notice it, you should definitely put in a message to that effect outside the room description when it changes. Or if it’s a thing where the description has changed once, you should break it out into a separate paragraph under the description describing the change the first time they see it–which seems like what Hanon says it.
You could even put a message about the update before the room description, like this:
The corridor extends east and west.
End of Corridor
There is a lever here.
You hear a noise from down the corridor
You notice that a door has appeared in the north wall of the corridor!
The corridor extends east and west. There is a door in the north wall.
(Probably if the room descriptions are this short, you don’t need to hang a lampshade on the door quite so obviously, but if the new stuff might get lost in the room description maybe this would be helpful?)
The problem is when you have a paragraph or two and there’s stuff already broken out. If I add an extra line, even at the end, I think it gets lost.
In a one paragraph description putting a short line at the end with a page break is easier to see. But even with one paragraph and two or three things broken out, adding that fourth seems to be too much.
When and where people are ready to notice and absorb new information is related to their expectation in the moment.
Usually, when you type a command, you expect the game to issue a direct response to that command. That response always has your max attention. So I think the most reliable place to indicate an (immediately) upcoming change to the room description in general is within that response, if that’s appropriate to the situation.
You can then also segue into the changed room description (next paragraph) by changing the start of that paragraph to how it’s always been. This works even better if the player has been through the room numerous times. They’ll be predisposed to notice a solid change to the first line of overly familiar text. Which, in turn, will cue them to recheck that whole paragraph.
I think changing the start of the paragraph can work well to indicate change even if the player didn’t just do something that directly changed the room description, but merely re-entered the room or something. It’s just the act of setting up an A>B comparison at the earliest possible opportunity.
You might consider explicitly emphasizing any new text. Some story formats make it easy to use different font faces and colors and to change the background color in specific regions of a page.