Offering Typing and Clicking


Several players on this board seem to prefer typing commands over clicking on them, for reasons that are ostensibly other than a simple preference for parser over hyperlinked games. Typing, to some, is inherently more interactive. I don’t think that clicking through hyperlinks is any more mindless than going from room to room in a parser game and always examining everything and taking anything that should be portable. I think that hyperlinked games are mindless in the sense that the choices are usually arbitrary or pointless (e.g., examine table; why wouldn’t everyone always click that?), but the interface itself isn’t. Authors just need to make games with choices that have meaningful consequences, forcing the player to think about the options.

So, for people who like to type, would it be worthwhile to offer that option in a hyperlink-based game? Consider a game which offers its choices as hyperlinks following this design:

Today is different. You are ready to take control of your life. Of everything.

You roll out of bed but don’t turn on the television. Not today. You look at yourself in the full-length mirror and decide who you are.

(1) I am a woman.
(2) I am a man.

Note that the choices can’t always be reduced to simple verb-noun constructions or, if they can, the phrasing of the action will not be clear. Also, in this design, only these two commands will be recognized at this time; typing “x me” or “inv,” for example, will not print an appropriate response.

Do you think that allowing the player to type a choice number would be satisfactory for those who prefer to type? Does typing need to involve a command? If so, what form does this command need to take? In the example above, should the choices be formatted like so:

(1) I am a woman (identify as a woman).
(2) I am a man (identify as a man).

Here, the parenthesized text would be the command the player would need to type. Or can we skip the verb and suggest that the player need only type a gender?

The question is, at what level is typing meaningful? A number representing a choice? A word or two summarizing a choice? The choice itself? Alternatively, is it a waste of energy and time to design a game that offers the option of typing (limited) commands in an otherwise hyperlinked game?


I don’t think that people who prefer the parser interface over a link-driven interface do so because they prefer the physical act of typing over the physical act of mouse movement and clicks.

Using typed input is meaningful when it’s parsing, rather than pattern-matching. That is, typed input is most interesting when it is not just a way of choosing between a small number of explicit options, but taking advantage of a command grammar that maps to a world-model. There are a number of aspects to why this is compelling - the illusion of open possibility, the text-speaks-to-text effect, the fact that the parser’s demands on the world-model force authors to make more world-modelly games - but at the point where typing is a way to choose between the three options that the author wants to offer, they’re all lost. If that’s the game you want, you should be making it with links.

There are parser games in which, perforce, the mode of interaction at points changes to a typed explicit-multiple-choice kind of input - conversation is a common reason for this. There are good reasons why the input here is still typed - it’s awkward switching back and forth between the two, and not all platforms and interpreters reliably support hyperlinks - but it’s effectively the same thing.

In general, yes.

I’ve found that if the typing consists of a single number or letter, it’s just an extra hassle over clicking unless the game offers other typed options like look and examine that are useful and advance the story.

For examples, look at Nat Dewey, which uses some standard commands and some CYOA commands. Both are necessary to complete the game, so it doesn’t feel like a pain just to type a number occasionally. Or Walker & Silhouette, which uses clicks but you can type if you want to – I don’t think I typed even once, but it was nice to have the option to re-look or examine something if I missed the link for it.

I’ve done this (see but I don’t think there’s any great advantage to it. I doubt the typing option made the game any more attractive to anybody. (To be clear, in this game there is no parsing; the typed command line only accepts highlighted words. You can complete the game with either typing alone or hyperlinks alone.)

The dual input model has the minor advantage that it can be played through IFMud’s Floyd bot, which is built around typed input. However, at this point it would be possible to extend Floyd to accept hyperlink input. So that would have been a better use of my time, if I knew Ruby. Which I don’t. :slight_smile:

Links and buttons or whatever are fine. Parser lovers (like me), don’t dislike clickable elements, but rather don’t like wading through tons of verb lists to find what we need in order to click on it, for the same reason other people prefer to use the keyboard when writing a DOC document rather than having a list of words to click on and construct sentences. This isn’t a problem in this case, so making it clickable is nice and simple.

speaking for me alone: I don’t play old treasure hunting games, so I don’t usually see much of the simplistic “going from room to room in a parser game and always examining everything and taking anything that should be portable” in modern parser-based IF.

on the opposite spectrum: I’ve played recently a clickable “game” in which all I did was click any link. I “finished” it without even reading a single line. granted, not much different than finishing Rameses typing only z.

this is the kind of “meaningful choice” often offered in choice-based games. What is this obsession over sex? I don’t usually look at a mirror and decide being a guy or a gal before taking the road. This is dementely stupid. How about

(1) I’m a rich bastard
(2) I’m a homely intelectual


that’s far more meaningful

no typing is needed to make a true game. Games need thoughtful opposition to win, not mere branching exploration. Then again, the term interactive fiction has smartly avoided associating itself with games (from the time when bookware were trying to garner respect). But, weirdly enough, lots of (bad) fiction claiming to be games these days try to adopt the tag…

recently I tried playing a lame TADS game that was ridden with numbered-choice for meaninful action. So, I had these report I had to show to a woman. I tried showing or giving her the report. Nothing. But talking to her and choosing the “show her the report” choice did. I quit.

if a guy want to write a cyao or plain static fiction, I’m fine with it. Better than trying to add tentacles to a dog and calling it an octopus…

Are you in the World of Darkness game I’m GMing right now? Although, we called them “octo-puppies”. Hehe.

I think that to do any sort of hybrid is tricky. The Quest system has an option to have hyperlinks for objects in their parser games, which I have seen used to good effect in some games. It can eliminate the guess-the-verb problem that some games have. I have gone through many verbs for an action, just to click on the hyper-link to discover the one synonym I haven’t tried is the one that’s been implemented. Granted, this is a game design flaw, but I’m guessing it is one that is pretty common for new authors. (I have been implementing a schwack of verbs I didn’t think of after reading some transcripts from the testers of my first game, but I turned off hyperlinks because I’m not personally a fan of them.)

I suppose I’m that rare bird who does sometimes find typing intrinsically more involving than clicking. The House at the End of Rosewood Street seems like it could easily have been done as a Twine, but I think I would’ve found endlessly clicking through to go from place to place incredibly annoying, whereas typing the directions to go from place to place was kind of lulling. Though also often annoying.

I just realized that I should’ve gone up one side of the street and down the other instead of crossing the street zigzagging back and forth. Derp.

Also I often find typing easier than clicking. (Do you save documents by dragging your mouse up to the menu, or do you hit command-S?) I think I went through Walker and Silhouette entirely by typing. There were some optional commands, too… However, I’m not sure that typing a single number would be satisfying – the thing that makes typing easier for me is that I’m using the language parts of my brain.

I’m not a picky person about typing vs clicking. They both have distinct advantages and problems over the other. I guess I’m probably very lenient about the subject, though I sure do recognize when things are poorly implemented and going wrong.

Just remember that it’s not only the interface itself that matters, but how the nature of the game behavior and world is tailored to that input. It’s risky to throw together a game and then decide on parser or mouse behaviors after much of the work is already done.

Ooooh, I like this sort of discussion. For the record: I’m a “pro-typer”. I’m not against clicking, just don’t find it as meaningful.

An extension for I7 does this, plus the more IF-ish possibilities of typing an object name to try and use it. Or some such. Though I like the latter, the former just looks silly. I have played games like that, and typing 1 or 2 or A or B is even more meaningless than clicking a link, because it’s so obviously a compromise that just doesn’t work. Typing a command is communicating an intent. Clicking a link is the expectation that our immediate action will have an immediate result. Mudding the waters has, on me, the mental version of motion sickness.

I could be the odd duck here, accourse.

I find that I communicate when I’m typing commands. I’m writing words, and words are actions. We communicate with word with other people, we communicate with books and plays and our everyday life with the very same words we’re using in parser IF. Plus, there is a response to our words. That’s pretty powerful.

Clicking, in my view, reduces the experience to looking for the hyperlink to click. And this is not the same as scouring a room description for interactable items. When you read a room description and start interacting, you aren’t just parsing “let me find nouns to work with”, you are also assessing what kinds out noun. Even when you get downright mechanical, the things you’d do to a statue are not the same things you’d do to a stool, and a clear picture of the objects and their characteristics becomes very important as you manipulate the objects.

But in a choice/hyperlink work, the choices are already there. They are meaningful as far as the story progression goes, but your only agency is selecting one of various links. Click. Then click again. Then click again. Seriously, my eyes glaze over unless the game is really good. I give these games a fair try, but a LOT of them I end up skimming, because they’re just walls of text with the occasional link. Clickclickclick, I feel like a zombie.

Fair point - but there IS a distinction, methinks. Yes, in terms of mechanics, it IS breaking it down to game mechanics which often get repetitive and mindless. But clicking can be more mindless simply because if you click everything, you’ll win. Or you’ll lose. And if you lose, you go back and click another choice. The choices are just lying there, after all, bold as brass, waiting for you to choose them.

Mind you, we’re talking about the drudging scenarios. A good CYOA game will know to avoid this state of affairs, just like a good parser IF will learn to avoid players wandering randomly without a clue.

It depends. If all that you are doing is replacing the mouse with keyboard for selecting an option, and nothing else, then yeah, I’d say it is. Maga says it well.

Actually, although my main reason for preferring to type is because communicating with the game is more direct (I am directly expressing my intentions in a meaningful way, like I could be chatting or writing a book, rather than clicking - I can’t tell you how jarring that “clicking” thing is to me when compared to typing in parser IF), I do prefer the act of physically typing. My wrist gets really sore when I use the mouse a lot.

Agreed. For me at least, navigating with the parser has spatial connotations. And I can speed through them quite quickly if I’m stuck and am wandering, or had a great idea and need to get to the other end of the map. “”. Done. Much faster and easier than clicking the various screens that might come up.

namekuseijin wrote:

“Thhis is the kind of “meaningful choice” often offered in choice-based games. What is this obsession over sex? I don’t usually look at a mirror and decide being a guy or a gal before taking the road.”.

Your judgment seems a bit premature here, given you no nothing about the context of the choice. Just because you wouldn’t do this, doesn’t mean that the PC, with a personality of her/his own, doesn’t face this decision some mornings. Deciding on a gender is not necessarily stupid or trivial in a narrative with themes of gender roles, self-identification, or transgenderism. The choice does have meaning if the author designs the resulting narrative around whether the PC decides to be male or female (the choice need not be the PC’s actual gender).

namekuseijin wrote:

"How about
(1) I’m a rich bastard
(2) I’m a homely intelectual

that’s far more meaningful."

No, not necessarily. The same arguments you gave for the stupidity of choosing a gender can be made here: I don’t get up in the morning and decide if I am rich or an intellectual. And who cares about choosing one of these if the author doesn’t follow through with the player’s choice and alter the narrative accordingly? Again, choices, I don’t think, are inherently meaningless or stupid. Meaning is given to any choice when its consequences actually alter the game (or whatever you want to call it).


If you really want to, you can play Twine games using the TAB and ENTER keys! :smiley:

Thank you for this.

I think the most likely reason authors (of non-gender exploratory pieces, etc.) feel they must offer a gender choice is for the sense of ownership and for the supposed replay value, but when gender has as much impact on the story as hair color, the value of the choice is zero. I don’t think I’ve played one yet where the gender choice resulted in more changes than a few clothing descriptions and the honorifics the NPCs used.

In a broad game with a relatively blank protagonist (“You’re an astronaut!”) this light implementation can be cute and flesh out the character a little. In a deep, very character-driven period piece (“You’re the eldest child of a noble family seeking a successful marriage by letting yourself be wooed by powerful strangers in the 17th century”) I usually find it off-putting to play the gender the author didn’t write the piece around. I wish they’d stop giving me the choice if it’s not really a choice!

This sounds like a recipe for a sore fingers!

The responses to my original question have been helpful, but I should have been clearer on the nature of the choices and their consequences. Several responses seemed to assume, understandably, that I was thinking of substituting hyperlinks for traditional parser commands and construct the world in the traditional way, i.e., with adjoining rooms and through which the player travels, doing this or that in a particular location and moving onto the next. In contrast, I was thinking of a narrative structure like that of a movie; choices transition the player from scene to scene rather than replicate traditional parser commands and take the player through a map. Under this scheme, the player may be presented with choices such as these:

Canvas for votes from the residents of Orchard Street because they are most likely to vote.
Meet with industry leaders to discuss how your election will improve profit margins.
Spend the day petting dogs and kissing babies in the park.

And the choice you make decides whether or not you get elected. In this case, to accomodate the typists, one would need to reduce each of these choices to a simple command, like “canvas” for the first, “propose business model” for the second, and “pet and kiss” for the third. So my question should have been, would the “typists” bother to enter these commands or just click the link? Based on the feedback so far, it seems like their may be a minority of people who would prefer to type them out.

Based upon the responses thus far, I would offer the player the option to type commands in a hyperlinked interface. I like the example set by Bigger Than You Think, although I understand Andrew’s point about its (possibly) unnecessary command support. Although, as mentioned above, I would use scene transitions rather than the traditional map and room-hopping that BTYL involve. Part of my decision comes down to my choice of authoring system, Inform 7. As far as I can tell, the only way to build a hyperlinked game using I7 is for the links to trigger actions. So if I’m going to implement actions anyway, it seems as though I might as well cater to those players who will likely prefer to type when given the option. The source text for Bigger Than You Think (thanks Mr. Plotkin) has given me some valuable insight on how to do this. I also like the idea of having my work playable on as many interpreters as possible, even those that don’t support links. I enjoy reading Club Floyd transcripts and the idea of playing within a group, and I would be disappointed if the CF gang couldn’t play my game.


In a game like the one you describe, where I need to choose out of a list of options to progress through the game, I think I would prefer it to be a hyperlink game. It just seems to me like it would be attempting to appeal to those people that are decidedly in favour of parser over hyperlink games without really understanding or acknowledging the reasons behind their preference.

If it was a person and I was feeling unkind, I might label it a “wannabe”. That sounds a bit harsh, but continuing my personhood analogy, I might not say the person is bad/worthless/whatever, just that they probably lack self-awareness.

EDITED TO ADD: Although I’m not big into choice-based games as such, I would play your game if it involves makes choices that either win or lose me an election, but that might be because I have a marked interest in politics. Especially if the writing was dramatic, funny, poignant or otherwise had a tone that fit well with the story/stories being told.

it’s more meaningful in that it leads the player into choosing a well defined role in a story rather than choosing a sexualized but still bland PC

I actually would like the interface you describe (though I would much prefer that the choices be CANVAS, MEET, and SPEND). And I had the thought that this would be really well suited to an I7 hyperlink interface. But you might be catering to an audience of only me here.

In short, you were thinking of constructing a CYOA or choice-based game and using its own mechanics, instead of borrowing the mechanics from parser-based. :slight_smile: Which is what you should do, IMO. Play to the strengths of a format.

Aaah. I was thinking you were talking about going through the whole game typing numbers for choice number 1, or choice number 2.

Actually, that’s intriguing and seductive. I’d find typing those commands very natural. I mean, I would certainly feel restricted when I realised that the game was, in fact, just asking me to select from a strict number of options, I might pine for the freedom of the parser… but I would be communicating with the game and no mistake. It’s asking me what I want to choose. If I can type, say, “canvas”, or “canvas votes”, or “canvas Orchard Street”… it would be different from clicking, yes.

Well, what do you know. I’m starting to find out something about myself - I really DO prefer typing to clicking, plain and simple. When playing these games, at least.

Of course, it’s only a veneer of parser into a CYOA model… but then, the presence of the mouse in CYOA is a veneer of graphics in a world that’s pretty much all text. So maybe it comes full circle. :slight_smile:

It would take a good writer, though, to make it clear in the text what choices are available, so the player can identify them and not, say, feel the frustration of mistaking prose for a choice - selecting a choice to find it was never a choice at all, just a turn of phrase, would be a no-no.

Because I’m thinking you’d want to avoid the kind of prose that games “Text text text text text. Do you want to choice one, choice two or choice three?”. That’s as bad as, in parser IF, “Rom description. Paragraph. You can see object 1, object 2 and object 3 here.”