Emily has a very interesting discussion here of why she thinks the command prompt/parser has to go. Her argument, essentially, is that it promises to understand any input, but most input in fact is not understood, and this keeps new players away. The prompt doesn’t tell the player about the affordances of the system, as she puts it.
It’s very interesting and there’s a lot of discussion on it – you should go read it.
A few thoughts:
- I don’t have that much of a problem with doing something esoteric as a hobby – I play NetHack, and some of the CDs I listen to don’t even have their track titles entered in the database of that sort of thing. But it does seem sad to do something that only a few people can participate in, especially something with “interactive” in the title, which doesn’t exist without an interactor. So I’m all for greater accessibility; though we should consider the costs.
- But cutting off the free-form parser seems like it’d have some costs – there can be a great satisfaction of thinking of just the right thing to do as opposed to having the options laid out for you. Though Emily’s envisioning a system where you have enough choices that the way forward isn’t obvious.
- That can be a problem, too, though. The troll on the thread has a point that the usual IF paradigm of going around, picking up objects, and using them in a few different ways is on its face pretty constraining. Explicitly restricting the verb set to a few things would seem to just reinforce that paradigm even more – unless we make the move to USE, or to keywords that have different (and possibly contextual) effects, or menu-based choices. (Conversation games are the ones I can think of that most break out of this paradigm – and a lot of them are menu-based or keyword-based.)
- This would require some totally new frontends. The demo Emily posted, where you type a keyword and then it gives you some verbs to type, just doesn’t work for me at all (partly because the command window is too small, but I don’t think that’s all). You’d really want to click on the keywords and then use a dropdown menu. And then you’re practically doing point-and-click games with words instead of pictures.
- Point-and-click games are an interesting comparison in general. Why are they more accessible than IF?
Anyway, an interesting discussion.