How about left/right/up/down as compass directions?

Sometimes i play strategy browser games.
When i chat about the map with others, we rarely use far northwest etc.
We use “the green army top left, below the red one.”

Could that be helpfull for IF too? Using left instead of west etc?

If, how can i design that best in inform7, to stay compatible with north etc? In a switchable way? Subtle things:

  • i thought about: now the printed name of north is “up”.
    But sometimes north should stay north, like if i look at a treasure map.
  • up/down can mean north/south, or staircase up/down.

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)

Thanks for responding.
I hoped i made clear it is not about facing, it is the same as north and compass directings. Fixed, related to a map. Its just that i have to translate north etc to something usefull, ie north is up on the map, and southwest is - one moment, back right? No, wrong again, west is left…
If people would never think in 2d, there would be no need for automappers, also, playing with facing would not be confusing :wink:

Forward/backward instead of up/down is a good suggestion.

Edit: Do i sound to harsh? English is not my first language…

You sound fine :slight_smile:

I do know what you mean about swapping north for up, west for left, etc

I think compass directions do their job extremely well, and I agree with the people who say they are worth keeping as as something the player can depend upon, but I wouldn’t object to a game which also allowed ‘left’ for west, ‘right’ for east, etc. - so long as it was clear about these commands in the instructions. There’s also potential confusion when talking about going up or down stairs and ladders, but I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to work around. Basically it would be up to the author to make it work, and I’m sure people could make it work.

A few years back, an experiment was made to see whether people cope better with compass directions or directional commands. IIRC, the result was that it was 50/50. The experiment was a game in which you were playing a lab rat, and you were given tasks. The game supported directional commands as well as compass directions. The game was “Rat in Control”:

I was thinking about using both. Allowing north as well as forward. And having a switch for display. Need some good descriptions. Would “mapwise” work? Map up, Map left? Something like

You are in a forest, with a nice campfire. In the north is a road, at least you see sometimes people moving behind the trees. From west to south flows a stream with cool fresh water.

You are in a forest, with a nice campfire. Mapwise up is a road, at least you see sometimes people moving behind the trees. From mapwise left to mapwise down flows a stream with cool fresh water.

regarding the Rats game, it uses left etc for relative directions. Relative to me. But i think with fixed directions. I agree with About/The Hypotheses, i think in maps. But

Here is the floor. Left of the floor is the bathroom, and a picture on the wall. Right of the floor is the living room. Left in the bathroom is the bathtube.

This does not turn when i turn. When i turn to the image, the bathroom is still left of the floor. Or think of a ship, it always has starboard and backboard everywhere the same.

Such a map is not oriented north, it is oriented to something. Something containing the location, the direction i have when i enter something. And when i talk with others (except sailors), its left/right based on that map. And when i explore, i add a location left of my mental map. So i thought, i save the translation of compass<->mind and use mind-directions directly. But not enforced, since old textadventurers would need to do the opposite, translating west to - “what was this left-thing about”?

Which now clashes with the left of turning, the up of staircases. So i look for some good verbal conventions. And maybe some coding help later :slight_smile:

I still say I’m all for experimenting (I tried out the “rats” game and actually felt the relative directions worked very nicely), but I still think you’re trying to adapt something for IF which doesn’t really conform with it.

When I read this, the image I have is of a solid block of wood, man-high and man-wide, labeled “The Floor”. Anyway, you can’t say that anything is “left of the floor” - everything is ON the floor.

Also, you’re making the floor the most important thing in the room by placing everything relative to it. That’s not a good thing. There may be instances in which making everything relevant to a single important object might work, but even then, overdoing it like that is not going to be good.

What I think you keep missing is that you keep talking about maps. Strategy maps. Real-life maps. But the point is that IF is not about reading maps. If anything, it’s about making them. Maps represent topography and geography. The IF experience is to walk around, see what is what, and then represent it - in paper or in the mind - via any number of ways, the diagram being the most widely used. The player experiences it, and then translates that experience to something that’ll help him/her get around.

What you’re trying to do is to enforce the language of map-reading on the experience itself. It doesn’t work like that, unless you want to give the player the map from the word go. And you can’t really have such map-styled descriptions, because at the interaction level, things are not happening from a bird’s-eye view. When the player is playing and reading room descriptions, he’s not hovering above it all like a strategist - or someone trying to follow a road map - must do when considering all the geography. The player is right smack in the middle of it, and he’s not thinking about the room as though it were a point in the map. He’s thinking about the room as though it were a three-dimensional space.

I’ll tell you what’s mildly bugging me about compass directions in the game I’m developing now - nearly everyone in the game is really young, and it’s written from their POV, but they still have to say things like ‘such and such arrives from the west’. ‘There’s a path to the north’.

Since the language already has to exhibit a degree of concession to their ages and mental processes, but without boring adult players or just being too plain or uninteresting in the process, the compass directions stick out to me. But I’ve got nothing better. I dunno, maybe nobody will blink at them.

See, that’s a very specific situation with very real reasons to avoid compass directions. If you, as the developer, are really concerned about it, then I would urge you - URGE you - to seek alternatives. You could keep compass directions for those who’d rather use them (see Aurora and Blue Lacuna), and present an alternative default method. You could have relative directions, if you’re ready to deal with all that facing (that “rats” game did that very well. I’d reccommend it as a model). You can have landmarks and “go to” (go to bedroom, go to bathroom. Such and such arrives from the kitchen). You should never feel unhappy with your work just because of existing conventions - though if you could ALSO support said conventions, it would only earn you points with the players.

The only kind of movement suitable for this game is discrete steps of ‘up a room’, ‘across a room’, etc. - basically, compass directions are ideal.

Offering keywords for movement only could be psychologically realistic (a kid might point at the beach to the west and say ‘the beach is over there’ - then point at the road and say ‘the road is over there’) but, then in the prose, what would I actually say? ‘You see the beach ahead and the road to your right’. I see myself entering a world of semantic vagueness.

The trouble is, the cartesian relationships between the rooms are totally grid-ish, because this is a game in which moving around is half the game, so the geography is totally unlike the more ‘natural’ / variable geography of Blue Lacuna whose nature makes keywords believable in the prose.

By the time I’m adding compass directions in the prose in brackets to reinforce the cartesian-ness of my game… I might as well just be using compass directions in the first place :slight_smile:

I’m still thinking about the issue.

I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of using left/right/forward/back as fixed directions rather than relative directions straight away. You’d definitely want to use forward/back, not up/down, though, since up/down already have their own meaning. If I remember correctly, Hunter, in Darkness used left/right/forward/back as fixed directions. Then again, aside from the maze section, it had a very restricted map, and rarely allowed much backtracking.

Articles on IF design often warn against simulating unimportant details. Maybe it’s worth considering: is it important to track which direction the PC is facing when using relative directions? Or is it an acceptable simplification to have the PC always face the same way in any given room, no matter where s/he entered the room?

A few problems with using left/right/forward/back as fixed directions spring to mind. For instance, players might expect BACK to always return them the way they came, rather than being a fixed exit, and become confused when it doesn’t actually work that way. More generally, how does the player know that the directions are fixed rather than relative? That could be an issue for players trying to map the game.

I imagine it would work best if the map was designed to be quite linear. If the player is supposed to be continually pushing forwards towards some particular goal (like the Wumpus in Hunter, in Darkness or Elias in Gun Mute), then it makes sense for the directions to be fixed according to that goal. So forward takes the PC further along the main path towards the goal, back moves away from it, and left, right, up and down allow for detours along the way.

(Can anyone think of any other games that used left/right/forward/back as fixed directions? I can only come up with Hunter, in Darkness and Gun Mute, and Gun Mute hardly counts since the only directions it used were forward and back.)

sorry about the floor, i guess its called corridor.
Was looking up german “Flur”. … earch=flur

About grammar, adjacent rooms, can the bathroom be left of the corridor, or how is that called? Or a wing left on a plane? And the plane facing to the end of the runway, and left of the runway is the tower?
Which are all local maps, and i can easily navigate in my mind with them, once i know a base orientation on the map.
In case of the corridor, i think: i come in, left is the baseroom etc, and then i use that orientation while inside the house. If i go right to the kitchen, the bathroom is still left of the kitchen, but two steps. I do not need much birdseying for that. But i use birds feeling when navigating in grids (and everyone using compass directions does that too).

good points. I hoped i could come up with some language, which still relates to left/right/back/forward, to save people using a drawn compassrose for training. But which hints that i am talking relative to the current map, not to the player. And some help-language to introduce that.

Or to understand that this is really no issue and i am a special case, but then comes severedhand and shows it is.

a vague idea:
How to give them a bigger textmap to get the idea? Something given at start.

You look at the map.
Left of the center is the pond, then the mountains, forward a house, then a forest.

Could that lead to the idea of gridthinking?
(Sorry, West of here is the pond, then the mountains, north a house, then a forest.)

Ok, we obviously disagree, and I won’t insist upon it. But no, not everyone does that. When I set up a map, I do use bird’s-eye, as many people do, but speaking for myself, I certainly don’t see “West of House” as being “down and left of North of House”, or the “Clearing” as being “up of North of House”. I may place them like that on the diagram, but in my mind it’s always SW, N, NE, S. I may be navigating in a grid, superficially, but what I’m really doing is zipping through my mental construction of space, and I always think about it in terms of compass directions.

I’m not looking for further discussion here, but it does seem to me that you’re missing the step of the “mental construction of space”, which makes sense given your experience with strategy games. It’s perfectly allright - that experience makes you look at IF differently. I was trying to make you realise that, but I guess I went the long way around and no-one gained much from it. Anyway, your ideas are as valid as any other, I was merely trying to explain why, from the outset, it wouldn’t be an easy job, by letting you know all the things you weren’t considering that happen in the mind of an IF player.

Not all IF players, accourse.

And regarding the writing… I shouldn’t worry about it too much, just make sure that you’ll get your finished work proofread by a native speaker. Just write it up as best you can, and trust your proofreader as he’ll probably have to rewrite it all up. Hey, I played a couple of games from a guy who came up with good games, good story, but was a very messy writer. Eventually he got someone else to rewrite all the text, and it was the smartest thing he did, because the games just got that much better.

Thanks. Yes, I was starting to have ideas about maps. Either an in-game map, or a feelie map. And Emerald reminded me that ‘forward’ and ‘back’ are better than ‘up’ and ‘down’.

So I’m going to start thinking about having an absolute forward/back/left/right direction set which would work as well as compass directions. Of course I would have to work out how to code it, too, and I’m trying not to kill myself with my first game in a new language, hehe.

No, but a similar idea often reoccurs to me. I imagine an IF game about a journey, where you might decide to take the left path or the right path or the path straight ahead, and back would always take you back to the previous room. The map would look kind of like a tree rather than the usual right-angled IF map. (Actually, now that I think about it, I almost used this for Dead Like Ants for that very reason.)

The chief defence of IF conventions is often that they’re a perfect fit for conventional IF games, which is usually quite true (and in this case, I think, in keeping with the OP), but rather limited.

When somebody says “Never do this in IF”, my first thought is always to try and think of a way that it could work, and I usually come up with a way to do it that would at least please me. (One of these days I’ll have to make my maze game…)

Would “ahead” and “behind” be better than “forward” and “back” in this way? Anyway, to my ear “ahead” and “behind” sound more natural as descriptive directions, and “forward” and “back” as part of your action, like this:

…which makes me think that if you use “ahead” and “behind” in your descriptions, you should definitely allow “forward” and “back” as synonyms. I don’t know, I think that ahead/behind/left/right might make it harder for me to visualize the map, but like dead finks I have a bad sense of direction anyway.

Yeah, I think that the main problem with any system that uses left/right as absolute directions is that, well, in IF the only uses of left/right have been relative, and in the real world the main use of left/right navigation – giving someone directions, or navigating along a road or a path yourself – is also relative. Absolute left/right strikes me as something that a) is used by a pretty specific set of people, of maps that don’t work very much like IF maps, and b) is very likely to suggest relative left/right to the player, even if you explain it to them explicitly.

The standard IF navigation idiom is a weird chimera of first-person and third-person omniscient, which works because it reflects two major components of our chimeric approach to real-world mapping. I’m all in favour of experiments that challenge the standard – I’ve tried to write games where there’s no navigation idiom at all, initially, and the player has to invent one – but I really dislike systems where a NESW idiom is replaced by synonyms. Port/starboard/fore/aft is basically the worst thing ever.

I’ll repeat the example of Hunter in Darkness. They’re absolute there. It’s not as unnatural as you might imagine. I used a few tricks:

  • In much of the game, there’s no backtracking. You enter a room once. So it’s natural to describe the room from the orientation where you enter it, and never change that.
  • The maze is all one-way paths, so you get the same effect even though the graph has loops.
  • You can backtrack a little in the beginning. But I made that passageway so narrow that you have no room to turn around! You type “back” and the game describes you literally backing up. So you return to the starting room in the same orientation you started in.
  • In some of the rooms, there’s strong plot motivation to move forwards. So I can describe the room in terms of a fixed “ahead”, and the player won’t think that’s weird.
  • And everywhere else, I just kept to the pattern and figured nobody would complain. :slight_smile:

In a larger, less constrained game, the absolute trick would certainly have broken down.

I think most people just accept that, at the player’s level, there is artifice. The parser itself is artificial; no more or less than the compass. Both are for the player, rather than the player-character, and I think trying to extend the player-character experience that far up the perceptual ladder (especially if the protagonists are very young) might just come off as a bit twee.

Actually, I think most of us accept a truckload of artifice at the character level too, but that’s another story (and different kinds of artifice) :slight_smile:

That said, I’m all in favor of anything that works. If you’ve got a strong left-right thing that will work, go for it. There’s almost never harm in implementing a GO TO type alternative, either, or combining them or allowing the player to choose, etc. I just think it’s okay to say “this is the character experience, and this is the player experience, and one doesn’t have to pretend to be the other unless such pretense can be either effortless or genuinely rewarding or both.”

Don’t ever feel obliged to cleave to convention, but be sure of your reasons and be clear on your goals.

Child’s Play used compass directions and they didn’t feel jarring, even though a lot of the rest of the language is very stylized, so I wouldn’t worry about young protagonists.

Two observations about absolute left/right directions from personal experience:

  1. Aurora got a lot of complaints for using nautical directions. If you use a different set of directions, everyone is immediately going to ask “Why can’t I use the regular directions?”; in Aurora’s case, at least there was a reason regular directions didn’t make sense, but if you’re using a regular landbound setting, be prepared for people to think that it adds nothing but confusion. (And learn from my mistakes: definitely don’t do it to add immersion. Nothing kills immersion like players not remembering the directions.)

  2. If I played a game like this, no matter how long it was, I would always be thinking it was relative. When I walk into a room, I assume I’m facing the direction I just walked, so if I go east and the description says “The forest is to the left,” I’ll immediately think that the forest is to the north. If the forest is back to the west, it’ll feel like I crabwalked sideways. Big immersion breaker, since it forces me to think top-down rather than from my character’s perspective.

One case where the latter wouldn’t be as much of a problem were if your game were more strategy-ish–if there were many characters and you switched from one to the next and did different things with them. Immersion wouldn’t be an issue, anyway.