It can certainly be done, programming-wise, but I think it’s a recipe for disaster.
You see, in the strategy games you mean, what you have is a top-down map. Even if you don’t - if you render it all in 3D - you still have a bird’s eye view. From what little I know, in those sort of games this sort of superficiality is a most desirable thing, because you don’t want to bother about the lone soldier amidst the trees - you want to globally see where everything is, and what’s happening. So you have a superficial map, and sure, within that map it makes sense to use left/right/up/down.
But believe it or not, IF is actually 3d. For starters, “up” means going up a level, and “north” means going a direction the same level. Although we map it in a 2d fashion, we most often don’t play it like that. We might assume, for our own mental convenience, in our mental map of the room, that north is the “top of the screen” and south is the “bottom of the screen”… but it exists, for us, as a 3d environment, where our own position is not specified. In a typical IF description, “left” and “right” would be absolutely meaningless, because who knows what direction you’re facing. And if in a single room you can face 4 or 8 directions, then suddenly right/left/forward/backward (and forget about up/down) can mean eight different things. Depending on where the PC is facing, which is irrelevant information.
So I don’t think it’s really a good idea, or even useful. It’s like adding adverbs - “Hey, it would be cool to CAREFULLY OPEN DOOR!”. Then all of a sudden every possible action multiplies like hell, and the player gets lost and encumbered, and the programmer’s tearing his hair out in clumps because those damn adverbs are sucking up all his will to live.
THAT SAID… if in a short game, or a short sequence of a game, you feel it’s a good idea for whatever reason, then go ahead. But don’t just replace east/west with left/right, if you want to do it properly (and if you’re not doing it properly why do it at all?) you’ll have to give the PC a direction to face, and then give him the ability to face any other direction, or rotate. You’ll also have to make your descriptions fairly dynamic to reflect the changes that happen when the player turns, unless you want to give the player compass directions and force him to move with relative directions, which is just plain cruel. And if you do want to go this way, I think there are extensions about “facing”. Not sure it’s the same thing, but it might help.
EDIT - Dig out “Countdown to Doom” and check out one of the mazes. It does exactly this - relative movement. Judge it for yourself.
EDIT 2 - There. It’s no big brainteaser, but I got a savegame for you. Just restore it and type “IN”. And then judge for yourself whether this would work in a full-scale IF. The file is obviously very very small, but I had to RAR it because the forum didn’t allow me to upload a SAV file.
EDIT 3 - And another thing. Notice in the example I give you how there are certain objects described as being “to the left” or “to the right” of the player. Now imagine doing that for every single object in the entire game, depenging on whether he came into the room via the east door or the west passage. My mind’s spinning just thinking about it.
MAZE.rar (640 Bytes)