LucasArts Style IF Engine - Testing the Waters.

I’m pretty sure something like this can be done with Glulx.

I love the parser. I think the parser is the best ever interface. All hail the parser.

But damn, I really like your mockup! I think I’d quite like to play a game that way, especially in a mobile device!

For some reason, though (I wonder why. It couldn’t possibly be 20 years of playing LucasArts games, could it?), my eyes keep wanting to put the verb list at the bottom.

EDIT - And yes, this can totally be done in Glulx. A few games have done parts of it, to one extent or another.

EDIT 2 - As to whether it would make a good game, sure! Don’t we have compelling CYOA games, which have much more visible and clear choices? It’s a matter of design. You couldn’t play Counterfeit Monkey or Galatea with an interface like that, but maybe you could play The Mulldoon Legacy, or Hadean Lands.

EDIT 3 - You know what, this could be done as an extension, couldn’t it? To encourage a hybrid middle-ground between parser and CYOA.

Creating a whole new game engine from scratch: No. Using one of the existing ones to implement an interface for this: Yes.

It’s not a new idea: Legend Entertainment games from the 90s (and possibly others and possibly earlier) had available verbs and nouns as clickable lists next to the story text.

As far as I know that mode of interacting wasn’t very popular. Ultimately it’s easier to type the commands than choose them from a list.

That said, I do think there’s merit to exploring the idea further, especially now that we have touchscreen devices where tapping on things is easier than typing. That’s why using an existing engine to try this out would be a smart idea because you could build a prototype with relatively little effort and see how playable it turns out to be. If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost much in terms of time and effort. (And even if it does work out there’s little reason implementing something that almost any existing engine can do other than as a programming exercise.)

The list provides a thing parsers are severely lacking in general, which is discoverability. I imagine the list was largely useful to players as a suggestion or way of noting “hey, this is a thing you can do” rather than as a clickable interface element itself.

Juhana: But the difference between Legend and what AleatoricConsonance is proposing makes all the difference. Legend provided a huge, extensive list of verbs and nouns. In AleatoricConsonance’s design, these would be necessarily truncated to a few. Because AleatoricConsonance doesn’t seem to be talking about a different interface for parser games (which is what Legend tried); (s)he’s talking about an actual game designed to only use a handful of verbs.

Here it is a second mockup with the verbs/inventory at the bottom. I shied away from trying this first as the comfortable reading length of a line is about 12 words. Leaving the text pane wider means that descriptions become difficult to read. The LucasArt’s layout, allows for a “widescreen” pane for graphics, which is not necessary in a text adventure.

Edit: I guess interfaces are flexible enough for a user to choose Landscape/Portrait format to their taste.

I’ll have a look at Glulx. Thank you for the suggestion.

Edit: Yes, Sequitur, discoverability is key to this kind of interface. I find a lot of IF frustrating in that it feels like I’m walking around blind and feeling for things, rather than seeing clearly what’s possible and what’s not.

The Legend system looks like an interesting historical artefact, but I can see it would quickly become painful to use. The genius of the LucasArts people was brutally restricting the system and pushing the bounds of what could be done inside that boundary.

If you look into Glulx and make an extension out of it, please drop me a note. I’d be thrilled to test it on iFrotz, with the keyboard turned off, and give you feedback on how well it works on an iPod Touch, which is a reasonable standard for mobile IF.

That’s easy to do in most IF systems. You don’t need to invent yet another one :slight_smile:

That’s a problem with the writing, not the interface. Good natural hinting is hard, but it’s one of the defining features of A grade parser IF.

I think this is a great idea, but I think the thing that will make it work is not having a noun list like the Legend games - The player should hopefully be able to select objects described in the text and the verb list to create a command. The one at the top looks cool where NPCs are in green and interactables are in orange.

I think an interface like this is a great thing, keeping the list of verbs to a reasonable minimum. (I agree with Peter that the problem with the Legends interface is the quantity of verbs, rendering the clickability essentially useless. Though even there, it at least helps a teeny tiny bit with discoverability, for anyone willing to read the entire menu.)

One thing your mockup doesn’t address is how to navigate from room to room. The Legends interface adds a dozen more buttons for movement (the cardinal directions, plus up/down and in/out), but I think instead you’d want to add a “Go to” verb that mostly only works on exits, which would presumably be highlighted in a different color from the orange objects and the green NPCs. This raises a question of how the player will form a mental map without absolute directions, which we were just discussing in another thread.

For experienced IF players, perhaps, but IF novices can’t be expected to automatically know the standard set of verbs. There’s no good natural hint that would lead players to think of commands like “examine,” “inventory,” “look” (by itself, to redescribe the room).

I also somewhat disagree with everyone telling you to use Glulx/Inform instead of making your own IF system. I agree with Peter that it would be prudent to focus primarily on touch interfaces. For this reason, I doubt that Glulx will be of much help to you on mobile; I bet you’ll want/need to code real UI, with buttons that are sized to be tap targets.

As for Inform, the standard rules are there to help you build a world that supports hundreds of verbs and natural interactions, where you can “put” any small object on top of anything else, where you can search something thoroughly with “look under” “look behind” etc. Given a substantially more constrained set of verbs, I suspect that a lot of fat could be trimmed out of the system, making something that’s substantially easier for authors to work with.

Here’s some other UIs to look at:

A Colder Light …

My heart still tells me that the best point-and-click text-adventure touch UI will turn out to be something like this:

  • Click on a noun to get a menu of appropriate verbs/actions
  • Drag an inventory item (from a side panel) onto another object to use it
  • Dragging might in turn pop up a menu of ways to use the item if there’s more than one way to do it.
  • Maybe some gestural shortcuts for common actions, e.g. one of these approaches:
    [*]double-click for default action 1 (probably examine), right-click/two-finger-tap for the default action 2 (probably use/take/talk to)
  • auto-examine on first click, double-click for default action (use/take/talk to)
    ]Maybe leave a blank spot at the end of the menu for you to type your own action, which should be either strongly hinted or purely bonus content.[/*:m][/list:u]

IIRC, I played mostly with the mouse. The common verbs are at the top of the list, so the huge list is only needed for special cases, and for those cases I typed rather than scrolling down to look for a verb. I guess that means that for me, the interface worked great, but as a hybrid and not a pure point-n-click. Special cases were rare enough that it’s conceivable to play without typing, though.

But the Legend interface would be useless on a phone or tablet. I agree with that.

(The only Legend game I’ve played is Eric the Unready, so that’s the reference I have.)

I suppose a highlighted “You can go OUT back into the street; the HALLWAY continues further on”, where a click on the direction automatically makes the move, would be sufficient.

You’d be surprised. All it takes is proper testing to get the size of the buttons right. In Glulx you can have hyperlinks and hyperlinked images.

A colder light is a good example, yes - it’s a more parser-y way of acheiving what the OP was on about, bit more verbose. Also, it’s made with Glulx. :slight_smile:

Perhaps as part of the system you could let authors determine the main six or so verbs that reveal themselves and change it situationally? Say if I examined a translator then TRANSLATE might replace USE temporarily.

Thank you all for your thoughts and examples. Definitely some food for thought in there.

dfabulich: Yes, there’s no concept for how to navigate from room to room. It was a quick and dirty mockup. Any serious attempt would require a lot of design, thought and testing that I suspect would yeild a lot of changes.

RE: Directions. My gut feeling is that, even without absolute directions, a user would develop some kind of spatial awareness through associations and naturally exploring an environment. Thinking about it, my spatial concepts are very, very poor, and IRL I have to think about left and right, and north and south. In games, I often get hopelessly lost wandering around in IF, and in maze style games like DungeonMaster or Doom. So I think I’m probably drawn to a more associative way of defining locations and relationships between locations. Very interesting discussion though, thank you.

RE: reuse. I must admit also, part of my original question was me looking around for a programming exercise. Part of me wants to build on the shoulders of giants, another part of me is just looking for a wheel to reinvent! I’m assessing Glulx. I do agree with you though that Inform is very powerful, but such a stripped-down UI doesn’t need that complexity, and wouldn’t use it. Decisions, decisions.

Re: UI. I’m not sold (in this case) on an interface that requires “dragging” things around. I think tapping/clicking or hotkey-ing a verb then object is a swift action, but with dragging you have to cross screen space pixel-by-pixel. The tap-select maps very well to using only keyboard, only touch, or only a mouse. Where dragging is something you can do with touch or mouse, but not keyboard. Then again, there’s probably all sorts of usability literature to prove me wrong!

Edit: And I’ve also just read your post here: [url]] which is also insightful about verb/noun games.

HanonO: Situational change I’m not sure of. It would be great to add the capability to do this, but whether after testing it proves to be useful is something I would be interested to see.

That’s the thing, though - you wouldn’t have to use it. But if you do, if you want to, it’s there. :slight_smile: All the stuff you wouldn’t be using wouldn’t take up an obscene amount of space or make the game any slower.

I’m reminded of the Monkey Island Meathook’s parrot “puzzle”. It may not be used often, but if you’re serious about a game engine (or a Glulx extension) then you definitely should provide that flexibility.

Hmmmm, I7 is a really weird language. Maybe I’m too used to seeing ‘C’ descendants. I kind of half dig the natural language approach, and half hate it. The hate part is seeing stuff and not getting instant grip on it, as I probably would with something more traditional.

Anyway, I think what I’ll do is some UI prototyping using html/javascript to see how it feels to operate, and get some of the bigger issues worked out (like should the main text scroll, or just refresh itself depending; and the exits and navigation issue.). I’ll research implementation options – Inform 7 feels strange to me, but I’ll see what I can pick up. I’ll also work up some solid specs and design documents for myself and see what I can match up.

I’ve already had one offer of collaboration going the Inform/Glulx route, which is positive.

You might be able to go I6, but it’ll be harder, I’m sure.

Maybe TADS can also help you with what you want. At the expense of more limited portability.

Of course, you could even look into Twine, or Undum, to go the web-browser way, I think that you could also achieve the effect you want with those, though Glulx would still be my first choice.

…sheesh, we DO have an awful lot of authoring systems out there, don’t we? :stuck_out_tongue:

EDIT - In your concept, don’t forget to include “USE item WITH item”. That’s a slightly more complex structure you’ll have to account for as well.

Sure do. A diverse ecosystem is healthy, but, I guess like Linux distro’s, you wind up with more choices than you can reasonably research. I guess a lot of programmers become interested in IF, and they automatically think "I could write my own parser/game engine … " because that’s a more concrete problem to solve than “I should write an IF about Elves vs Giant Robots in Space”

Cheers. I had that one. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your help and insight.

I realize this is not exactly what the original poster is going for, but I think it’d be neat to have an extension that functions, basically, like having the IF postcard on the screen along with the game. The player would be able to turn it on or off, and it would just be a window, or expanded status bar, or box, whose sole purpose would be to display a list of the most common standard verbs (or whichever verbs the author wanted to display). It can be hard to watch novice players typing in lots of things that don’t work and getting frustrated from not being familiar with standard verbs or with how commands are typically constructed (e.g. avoiding adverbs). Having a help command or menu that lists these things is good, but maybe new players would be more likely to consult the list if they didn’t have to keep typing HELP to see it.