[I6] Navigating with "left" and "right"

I played some older game (Battlestar) which used “left” “right” “forward” and “back”. The directions depend on which way the player is facing. I like this way, as it seems so rare for people to carry a compass in daily situations and its also not common that “i” shows a compass in a person’s inventory. Are there any Inform 6 games that use this I can look at the code to to see how it can be done? How do you feel about this style of navigation?

As a player I would very much hope that an absolute navigation system like the compass directions or a GO TO system would also be provided. I tend to picture the geography from outside the player character’s view and not relative to the direction where the PC entered the room. It’s easy to remember that “the kitchen is north from the living room”, but “the kitchen is forward from the living room if entered from the foyer and left if living room was entered from the bedroom and right if living room was entered from the bathroom” is not that simple.

You would also need to somehow show which way the player is facing–what if the player moves around the room, is he still facing the same direction as when he entered the room?

This did work very nicely when I played a game that showed pictures of locations in top part of the screen and directional commands were in relation to the picture (typing LEFT meant the left part of the picture).

Another vote that compass directions are an acceptable break from realism, just like letting the player hold many things rather than forcing him to goof around with inventory limits. (I like to pretend that the protagonist is Kuuk Thaayorre and doesn’t need a compass.) It’s easier for me to navigate when I can always type the same command to go from point A to point B. You can also check out Blue Lacuna, in which you can only get around by typing the name of the location you want to go to, until you find a compass.

This doesn’t answer your I6 question; there’s an I7 extension that does this, Directional Facing by Tim Pittman, which might give you some ideas how to do it in I6.

See also Rat in Control.

Hunter, In Darkness uses relative directions, but it’s also a game that requires no mapping. For most games, the ease of play is well worth the sacrifice of realism. Breaking from convention will cause many players to think consciously about how you’ve implemented movement. If that’s what you want, then you can make it a feature of the game. Otherwise, it may distract players from what’s more important.

My personal preference these days is to keep the compass – it’s much easier for me to build a mental model of the map that way, whereas I get totally lost in left/right games – but to include a GO TO ROOM command that allows the player to interact without using the compass directions after the initial exploration.

If you must use relative directions, please make sure the player has an easy way of finding out what each of the directions is set to. Or perhaps have a rotating map graphic, where the “forward” room is always up on the screen from the current location, for example.

I played a game just last night that used relative directions, and half the time I ended up cycling in small loops as I tried to orient myself. (And, later in the same game, I somehow managed to enter a room in which “left” always brought me back to the same room, and all the other directions gave “You cannot go in that direction,” without the usual exit lister kicking in. Turned out I needed to go “out” first.) It was arguably in character for the easily-confused kitten PC, but, augh.

The only game I could actually say I’ve enjoyed with relative directions is Pacian’s Rogue of the Multiverse, and honestly that game was so much fun in all other respects that I’d have probably forgiven it an even more baroque navigational scheme (and, actually, the scheme worked well for a certain sequence later in the game). I’m not saying that cardinal directions are the One True Right Answer, but relative directions seem to cause more problems than they solve. Absolute directions (">go to kitchen"/">kitchen") seem to be more appropriate for giving the impression that the PC does know her way around but doesn’t carry a compass.

How would you handle a situation like this:

The character is on a ship/airplane with a large number of rooms, but as the ship/airplane itself can turn, n/s/e/w directions become less useful for navigation, in fact, it seems rather strange to use.

Is left/right navigation okay in this situation?

The same problem (it’s hard to build a mental map with left/right) applies on a ship or a plane. As you say, compass directions make less sense on a ship, so you might consider using the extension Shipboard Directions. I don’t know how appropriate that would be for a plane, but something similar would.

Nthing the compass directions as an acceptable suspension of disbelief. I don’t think of rooms as being any more “left” than “north”, honestly - when I’m in a space, it’s mostly a kinesthetic sense, relative to landmarks. I still have to think twice about left vs. right - north, as a landmark relative to a mountain range or local cathedral, is easier to parse out. Inside, my mental map of rooms relate to each other more than me, and the compass directions fit better with that. (And the “GO TO [ROOM]” even better.)

Compass navigation is almost always an abstraction and it’s more than acceptable to expect that the player will and usually wants to suspend disbelief when compass directions wouldn’t make sense in the game world, much like when you play a FPS you accept that the character in the game doesn’t actually operate the gun by pushing a button on a mouse.

Some games do give a reason for using compass directions: the player character might mention that they just choose an arbitrary direction as “north” and go with that. On boarding a ship your character might comment that it’s easier to keep using compass directions even though they wouldn’t map to actual compass directions, or you could start using aft/port etc and mention that compass directions are accepted as synonyms.

Exactly so; the compass scheme is for the player, not the player-character.