Criteria for Highlighting Object Names in Text

Hello All,

I’ve read here discussions on explicitly printing object names at the end of room descriptions versus “hiding them” in the text. I prefer the latter; to me, a list of objects says “Here’s the important stuff, never mind what else I wrote. No need to bother actually investigating.” But it appears as though many people actually like the hand-holding. I can’t in good conscience do that in my wip, though, so I’ve decided to give the player the option of the game highlighting “important” objects.

Is there a convention for highlighting important objects? I know many games have done this, but, since I use a screen reader, I don’t know under which circumstances this is done.
Take, for example, a bed:

  1. You can examine it.
  2. You can examine it, and doing so is necessary.
  3. You can examine it, lie on it, look under it, and sit on it, but none of those actions are inmportant to the game.
  4. You can do the same as in three, but you can also jump on it, after which it breaks and an important object falls out (thus manipulation is important to progress the game).

Which of the circumstances above is the minimal criterion to highlight the bed object in the text? One seems too general - in some cases, the text would be painted - and four seems too restrictive - several rooms with objects will appear boring because, although you can perform actions on items, it won’t appear to the player that you can or should. And the problem with two is, what is the definition of necessary? Is an object that gives flavor to the room and personality to the PC really necessary to examine?

Another thing I was wondering: Should the object lose its highlighted status once it has been fully used (i.e., you’ve done all the important actions to it)?

Thanks for the advice.


If you explicitly give the player the option to have “important” objects high-lighted, using that very word, I suppose a player would expect that high-lighted objects not only can be interacted with, but has to be interacted with in order to progress through the game or in order to understand the plot etc.

So, I’d say you should go with 2b – to wit “You can examine it and/or interact with it in some other way, and doing so is important to the game or the story”.

(And if the player chooses this help, I guess chances are he/she might appreciate the further help that high-lighting disappears when an object is no longer important.)

No matter which highlighting scenario you choose, this seems like a very good idea.

This seems to be an IF equivalent of “press to highlight available hotspots” (Simon the Sorcerer 2 and A New Beginning), a feature I love. Thing is, in IF, practically everything can be a hotspot. I suppose it might work if you highlight the really important items (such as the strange machine that holds the secret to the universe) as well as the best-implemented items (like the oven which is fully operational, even though it might not actually be critical to the game - you know, maybe it can help as an optional puzzle, or a backup puzzle in case the player does something they shouldn’t have done like discarding that hot poker and now they need to get another poker and heat it themselves, or maybe just because it’s fully implemented and, though of no critical consequence, does make things hotter).

What I don’t really like with this approach is that it limits me, the player, to focus on the highlighted items instead of on the whole thing. I will no longer pay attention to that bed in that bedroom, for instance. Which might be a good thing - I’m tired of automatically Xing, LOOKING UNDER them and SEARCHING them and doing the same things to the sheets and pillows every time I see a bed. But, if the bed’s highlit, then I’d assume there IS something about the bed. But I’d have known it because of what seems to be a hint system - “Look HERE”, it says, “there’s something of note HERE”. And if I’m going that route, I’d rather have the hint system.

I suppose it’s all in the way you design it. The things to avoid are too many highlit words (overload - might as well not have any!) or too few (then the player will REALLY only bother with those), and you can only do that in the actualy writing stage. I like it that you give the players the OPTION to do this.

You know, it just occurred to me. I was leaning towards 2, 3 and 4… but why not allow the player to cycle between them, for the equivalent of several levels of hints? It’s harder to code, but might be rewarding.

You could also make important objects fixed in place rather than scenery and then give them an initial appearance. This way these objects get their own locale paragraph while scenery is described in the room description.