IF works with an innovative take on space

Something I’ve always wanted to do was a game with 4D navigation, where when you moved positive or negative in the fourth dimension, you see the different slices of stuff around you. The room gradually changes shape, some objects appear, disappear, and morph, etc. Some exits would only exist on certain slices; stuff like that.

If you pick up an object, move W+ or W-, then the slice of that object stays the same because you’re moving it with you. Then, if you put it back down and move in the opposite direction, different slices of the object are now visible in the room slices. Stuff like that.

The only reason why I never jumped on it was because I felt like it might be a little too unintuitive, and players would forget that it’s an ability they could use.


Sorry if I am being annoying and naggy, but do you know how to do stuff with no gravity? I am definitely using that, it’s just there are a few bits with no gravity.

I just wonder how that would work. Maybe (to get them to remember to use the 4D stuff) you would add a small puzzle near the beginning to help them learn, a second one close after, and then at the very end a third ENDGAME puzzle, but not telling them that you have to solve it using 4D navigation, to see if they remember.


Generally, anything not specifically attached to a fixed surface or stored in a closed container will, each turn, randomly leave their surfaces/containers until they’re contained only in the room. Then, those objects will randomly move between rooms every couple of turns.

It’s really hard to get anything to be completely still in null-gravity. Almost everything is strapped down, attached with Velcro, or contained in a closed and latched container. Otherwise, the tiniest randomness in the slowest of velocities can still add up to drift over time.

As far as null-gravity directions go, you could technically use shipboard directions. The International Space Station has their own directions for up (“zenith”) and down (“nadir”), where nadir points toward the Earth below. (Assuming your ship is able to maintain relative orientation, at least. Without power, your ship will appear to slowly spin as it orbits, returning to its original orientation upon reaching the start (“periapsis”) of the orbit again.)

Because of this, you might also consider completely making up new directions for shipboard navigation, like “ladar-ward”, “thruster-ward”, “engineering-ward”, “airlock-ward”, etc, by using a key ship component as an axis.

Null-gravity kinda makes a lot of traditional directions and design trends irrelevant. The only reason why you might use traditional shipboard directions (like “port” and “starboard”) is if your ship is capable of atmospheric flight, like a single-stage-to-orbit craft. This would mean that it’s likely designed with more connections to traditional ship engineering, and allow traditional shipboard directions to still make sense.

Hopefully this answers your question; not sure if I interpreted it correctly lol.

I’d be really worried about having long delays between applications of new mechanics. If the player does forget, then they’ll get quite frustrated and wonder why these mechanics were added in the first place. That’s my primary concern lol.


Also, you couldn’t be naggy and annoying. I love space and the engineering problems it presents, and am really knowledgeable about it and related hard-sci-fi concepts. It’s one of my main things, and I literally look for excuses to talk about it lol.

Also also, sorta forgot: It’d be a neat mechanic in null-gravity to remember what direction a player travelled in while moving inside a ship. If the next room they entered lacks a reachable anchoring point (like a handle), then the player will automatically be forced to continue moving into the next room in that same direction, because they are unable to stop themselves.

This might also apply to thrown objects; they do not stop travelling until no exit remains in that direction, at which point they bounce off a part of the wall, and begin doing normal, slower, chaotic null-gravity drifting, which I described before.

Something fun to throw the player a curve ball, if you’re up for implementing it~ :wink:


Many thanks for your responses, everyone!

What I find really interesting is that most of the posts focus on innovative navigation instead of, for instance, innovative use of setting (e.g. setting as character/antagonist) or experimentation with the screen text or the code. One interpretation for that could be that navigation is still a crucial element in IF. I find this quite revealing since modern IF is supposedly characterized by its emphasis on story and/or characters over traditional exploration and treasure hunting. Of course, I might have just led you towards this direction (pun intended!) since the examples I mentioned in my initial post are indeed examples of innovative navigation… but still, food for thought!


If you’re interested in “spatial” uses of text, there’s another recent thread with examples that might be of interest:


Thanks for this mention! I also have a newer game, A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things, that only allows navigation in relation to the (moving) Sun.


Most choice-based IF doesn’t have any navigation (in the traditional sense) at all, and those make up a much, much larger percentage of recent IF works than parser-based IF, so if you’re including those works, the conclusion that the medium is, at heart, still all about exploring physical spaces is far off the mark. But it’s hard to answer the question of “which choice-based works have an innovative take on the concept of space relative to traditional parser-based IF?” because, again, almost none of them conceptualize space the way that parser-based IF does to begin with.


My point exactly!

Most modern IF foregrounds spatial aspects other than the navigation of the narrative (physical) space, e.g. navigation through the text instead of the narrative space; the space occupied/shaped by the text on the screen; the conceptualization of space on the level of the code etc.

So, what I found interesting is that most of the responses focused on alternative ways of navigation through the narrative space as a form of innovation instead of all the other aspects that are indeed more prominent in modern IF. If it was not my examples that led to these responses, could it be the striking number/ variety of the alternative navigational systems that have emerged? Or the complexity and thus the new challenges they pose to the player?

My guess is that the inherent navigability of the digital medium itself (according to Janet Murray) is one of the reasons why IF is highly associated with any kind of navigation in general.

Again, food for thought and, of course, any kind of input is more than welcome!


Yeah, I was going to guess that choice-based things have done so much with other forms of navigation that maybe it’s not as notable as it once was? I’m blanking on good examples now, of course. Harmonia maybe?

And maybe those things are also more explored in IF-adjacent fields rather than IF itself? Thinking of things like Taper.


Wait, I think I’m confused. Were you meaning “navigation” as in menu navigation? Like, ways to navigate the elements of the mechanics, and not the setting itself? Sorry, I’m really literal-minded, so I’m trying to understand the other interpretations you gave.


Well, it may have been at least partly the examples, and it may also partly be the audience, since there are a lot of parser fans on this forum. But yes, I think part of the issue is that conceptions of space and navigation in IF have spun off in so many different directions (if you will) that it’s harder to call particular instances to mind than it was when there was a single clearly-established norm (that is, taking place in a defined physical space that you navigate with compass directions).

But there are some works that play with the navigation conventions of choice-based systems (particularly as established by Twine)—I agree that Harmonia is a good example of that, and what origin of love is doing with alerts might also be of interest.

(Edit: To be clear, Harmonia isn’t written in Twine, but I would say the conventions that it’s playing with largely come from Twine as opposed to, say, ChoiceScript. If that makes sense. I’m very tired.)

(Edit x2: I promise I’ll stop editing my own post after this, but it occurs to me that while we’re talking about Liza Daly, her game Ballroom is also relevant here—it’s all on a single page, and clicking on something at the bottom of the page can affect the text above it.)

Since you mentioned an interest in setting-as-character/antagonist, I liked Thin Walls, which @DeusIrae mentioned above, for that.


Hmm, if you want weird stuff you can try the game After-Words:

I just finished playing through the Usher Foundation collection of short horror twine games: Search for Games

Among them, the Vast uses the physical space of the page in creative ways, the Dark uses color and shade, the Spiral handles a labyrinth both textually and mentally, and the Eye uses unusual computer navigation.

Whoami by n-n is a Spanish game that uses Twine to simulate not only a computer environment with files and folders but also an inform-style parser that is completely “fake” and the use of towers of Hanoi to represent ecological and mental space:

In terms of node topology Phantom Williams has 500 apocalypses, which consists of 500 unrelated stories that are visually represented by dots with interesting navigation.

There was an awful game years ago called Rape, Pillage, Galore where the only options were SLAY and LAY. Chandler Groover did a parody called Rape, Pillage, Makane that I have never played.

Hanon Ondricek uses AXMA to do brilliantly interconnected and active worlds, in Cannery Vale, Alice Aforethought, and the Cursed Pickle of Shireton. These games include movement in time, live action events, mirror worlds, dream worlds and dreams nested in dreams, interesting positioning of links, games hidden within games, etc.


Very interesting, many thanks!


Oh apologies, I didn’t explain this clearly!

So by “navigation through the text” I refer to the way that the reader/player/interactor moves from one block of text that is visible on the screen to the next. For instance, does the reader/player/interactor access the blocks of text in a linear or prefixed order? Are they given choice (e.g. in the form of hyperlinks) which can lead to different blocks of texts? Are all the blocks of text accessible in a single playthrough or do particular choices in each playthrough exclude particular blocks, etc.

I hope it’s clearer now!


Much better, yes! I appreciate it! :grin: Most of what I have played is parser-based, and the handful of non-parser games I’ve played don’t stray too far from the parser design pattern. (I swear it’s accidental that those are the only non-parsers I’ve played.)

A few times I’ve tried to played something that got innovative with it was mostly doing stuff where the text would automatically progress after some time limit.

However, as a slow reader, this meant that I was missing huge chunks of information and context and couldn’t really continue the game.


Hmm yes, I understand this must have been frustrating… It would be interesting, though, if this was the intended effect in the first place… For instance, to make the player experience what the characters are experiencing etc.


The very first official Discworld computer game did, though… the 1986 Quilled text adventure The Colour of Magic by Fergus McNeill.


Device 6 is a paid game on iOS, and I recommend it. It is IF, and it does unique things with space in all sorts of ways. Plus it’s really fun.


@8BitAG I had no idea that existed. I’ve located the relevant screen for anyone interested