Craft question: looking into distant rooms

I’ve listed this as an Inform 7 question, though it’s more of a philosophical one.

Let’s say we have a large, open location, and we can see into various rooms. I don’t have a technical problem with doing that. What I’m wondering is what the player ought to see. I’ll write custom room descriptions, that’s fine. It’s the nondescript items/locale description stuff that I’m wondering about. Realistically, the player could see a basketball but probably not a credit card, but I don’t want to go to that level of simulation (though I would if it turned out to be important).

Barring that: I could print a locale description without container contents for the remote room. Alternately, I could skip this step altogether and omit such items from the description. Or I could make my own list.

What do you think is reasonable to include while looking into a remote room? From a stage to the audience, for instance?


Excellent question.

Players have a powerful tendency to take the room’s object list (nondescript and, er, descript) as a list of things to interact with, not just a list of things that are visible. Of course if the room mentions “clouds” or “a distant mountain range”, players understand that their interactions will be limited to EXAMINE and a lot of “that’s far away” responses. Still, you should take this viewpoint into account.

For Shade, I convinced myself (perhaps egotistically) that I should implement a “you walk across the room and then pick that up” system. That is, for a small apartment, I figured the player should think of the kitchen as “not really distant”.

The stage-to-audience case is different. The stage/not-stage border is psychologically and narratively important! So I’d think in terms of “what would the person on stage notice or care about?” This might not necessarily be about size. People on the audience are important. A dog, sure, if it’s a noisy dog. A backpack, maybe not.

(Exploring an empty stage will be a very different experience than being part of a play performed on a stage!)


Yeah, this is a good point. I’m thinking about this mechanically, but this is not just about what can be seen but also what would be noticed.

It partly depends on why the player can see into multiple rooms.

If an npc will open the secret door when the player is peeking through the window, but not while they’re in the room, the important things to show from a distance would be people and doors.

If the looming mansion provides atmosphere, the player might be able to see the crumbling stones and broken windows from across the grounds, even if that’s not technically realistic.

If it’s for pure simulation purposes, I’d err on the side of showing less rather than more. Eg if all I need to know is that there is a storefront across the square, being able to make out the items in the window display might just clutter the description.

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Agreed. So I’m hearing in both replies that this is not really an implementation question. It’s a judgement call. I’ll need to tell Inform 7 what is important as a subset of the possible, but determining how/what matters is the focus.


If I have an idea of what’s reasonable, it’s based on a kind of verisimilitude that I think would quickly be overridden by the particulars of the game.

If I pretend I’m doing what you’re doing (I probably do it in spots in my game, but not systematically) I also would first write a custom room description. If the room can be viewed from a big range of distances, maybe even more than one per room. Or too far rooms might get a general fob.

Listing things after that would depend on things like – is the game very inventory oriented? Is the PC? Is it important to know where you’ve left things? Is it going to help to be able to see exactly where something you’ve dropped is? Are you looking for something at the time that you might be able to see from afar, motivating you to do these far looks in the first place?

All of that would determine how much I say about what’s in the far room. Until I’ve visited the room or handled the items, I might have messages of the kind, ‘There’s something on a chair down there.’ or ‘There’s something on the ground.’


Hmm. This is a good-- and tricky-- question. I think possibly what I’d like as a player would be something like:

You’re in a green room with wide hallways leading to other rooms in each cardinal direction. To the north, you can see a purple room. To the south, etc, etc.

X purple room

It appears to be a sculpture garden.

X sculpture

You can’t see any of it very well from here.

And I might think, Aha! The cleaning lady was mumbling about a statue! Maybe I should go to the purple room and check those sculptures out.

For the reason @zarf mentions, the default IF convention is that the player’s location defines the ordinary limits of both vision and scope (the latter here meaning what can be interacted with via commands). From a narrative perspective (and a work of IF is usually best considered a narrative rather than a simulation) this convention works well, and you probably need a good reason to break it, and then primarily by including out-of-scope descriptions that seem important to understanding or the atmosphere of the current location.

So, in an outdoor location it would perhaps not be remiss to mention the massive looming spooky mansion overlooking the driveway on which the player is standing. But you probably need a very good reason to mention objects which may or may not be found in an adjacent location. If important to narrative or ambience, as @zarf suggests a barking dog for example would be a possible exception, etc., but I think the emphasis here would be on exception.

The question you’re really asking is ‘what is the narrative purpose here of breaking convention to allow looking into an adjacent room?’

I’m live blogging this project, so I don’t mind sharing the small map of this region.

These are all good questions. In this case, we’re talking about a compact map where logically distinct “rooms” are physically contiguous. It’s a small theater, like the one in my old high school. Someone can point a spotlight at something onstage. Someone onstage can look down into the audience. So… I’m just trying to feel my way to the right amount of detail. As others have said, I think significance to the observer might be the main thing to consider.

The PC will not be inventory oriented–she is a cat–but her human friend might be. I’m still sorting that out.

I think both of these suggestions are solid. I’ll experiment!

I couldn’t agree more!

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