Question about player preferences in descriptions of clothing

Hey All-

I have one item of clothing that is important in my WIP. Should all items of clothing be described, even if they’re not important? It’s quite obvious in the game that this one item is important, so describing everything else shouldn’t confuse the player, but would it get in the way of enjoyment?

If I only have the one item of clothing described and listed as being worn, does that irritate you? Does it imply that the player is otherwise naked?

Or is it annoying to describe the shirt and the pants and the shoes— all of which are unimportant?

What’s the best way to go here?


I think it depends on the item? Typically I’d lean towards having X ME include a description of your regular clothing, then it’d be fine to call out one actually-implemented article of clothing that shows up in the inventory list and can be interacted with separately. Like:


Your crimson scarf provides a natty note of contrast to the rest of your earth-toned ensemble.


Your crimson scarf provides a natty note of contrast to the rest of your earth-toned ensemble. [i.e. just implement as a synonym for X ME]


You are carrying:

a crimson scarf (being worn)


This crimson scarf is loosely knotted around your neck, but seems strong enough to serve as a rope in a pinch.

But if the article was like, your pants, it might be weird to just have that called out by itself.


As long as it’s clear that the item is significant and I’m not left wondering why this specific thing is in the inventory while everything else isn’t, I wouldn’t find it out of place. And I also definitely wouldn’t want to have the inventory clogged up with useless articles of clothing, so I’d be happy to suspend disbelief.

If you want to be thorough, you could implement the other clothes (probably as generic “other clothes” object with various synonyms so you don’t drive yourself insane) without having them appear in the inventory, so a player who goes “hmm, if my shirt is implemented, am I wearing pants too?” won’t be disappointed.

(I have a similar situation in my WIP, so I’ve been thinking about this.)


If you include other clothes in the inventory, players will try to take them off.


I would think about it in terms of a static piece of writing. Would it be weird to describe a novel protagonist wearing a very fancy hat but not talk about their pants and shoes and such? To me, no.

You can always implement other items of clothing as synonyms for “yourself” if you don’t want the words to go unrecognized.


I think it depends. Articles of clothing are opportunities to develop a sense of character. Describing each item might help players learn about someone’s personality. It might not, on the other hand. Your overall strategy for the character is important.

The other thing I would consider would be ongoing status of player inventory. I sometimes find it jarring to see “you are empty handed” type messages. Clothing descriptions are a way to fill out that listing. On the other hand, if inventory is being checked constantly for practical (gameplay) reasons, the clothes are likely a distraction.

e: Although inventory clutter could be avoided by naming individual articles of clothing in the description of an ensemble (per Mike’s suggestion), then giving them descriptions while leaving them unlisted individually in inventory.


Yeah, everyone wants to be naked in IF. You can always just put in some code that says, “What are you, some kind of pervert?” if they do that.


I’ve been working on this as well, and the solution I’ve been leaning toward is sorta like what Mike Russo describes above, only with additional “elements” of attire added to the default description/inventory/whatever as they’re “discovered”.

One of the design problems I have in mind is the player trying to figure out if an NPC has something concealed on their person. Both in the sense of “Is Alice carrying a concealed weapon?” and in the sense of “Someone has purloined the murder weapon, a candlestick, and might have it concealed about their person—is Alice, Bob, or Carol most likely to have it hidden and if so where?” That kind of thing. So I don’t know if fanatically detailed models of NPC clothing make much sense in other contexts.


Though in most cases, I would have SEARCH ALICE determine if she has the candlestick, rather than requiring SEARCH BLOUSE, SEARCH SKIRT, etc.


There is a tradition in text adventures that clothing is only mentioned if it is significant, in the same way that furnishings in a room are only mentioned if they are significant. The exception is if you want to add colour or character, but then you have extra objects to deal with that are of no value to the player and they feel like they must be significant or they wouldn’t be mentioned.

If the item of clothing is something like a hat or jacket or lab coat, that’s fine, but if it is an item of underwear, then you’d need other clothing to cover it. The more layers of clothing you add, the more complexity you add.


Well, if the player is free to frisk Alice or something like that. What I’m talking about is more like you’re at a fancy ball and you’re trying to spot the assassin before they make their move…without causing a diplomatic incident by randomly patting down Lady Snifflebothum for no clearly enunciated reason. Or you’re trying to identify which of your teammates has been replaced by a Thing by identifying any torn or discolored garments, without tipping them off that you’re onto them so they can rabbit. Possibly literally. That kind of thing.


Just realized I’ve never seen a version of John Carpenter’s The Thing done as an IF. Going to have to see what the IFDB has for that, because that sounds like a genre niche perfect for IF.

download (1)

Update: Not finding much right off the bat, but I could be searching for the wrong things. Maybe I’ll just do an IFDB poll and see if anyone has any suggestions instead.


Amanda, As you are already aware, I fully concur and agree with “Kamineko”, and I prefer to give sensible reasons for disallowing doffing.

Warrigal, the layers of clothing is an historical issue in IF design, and the root of the genre convention that clothings are implicit.

More general, one must consider the classical “disguising” puzzle, requiring wearing expected clothing; but people (incl. adventurers…) change clothing for a variety of reasons: for an extreme temperature example, not few volcanoes are high enough for having snowy tops, at least in winter, that is, cold wilderness around an hot dungeon…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


So many interesting discussions here, and just in time :p.
I want to use a piece of clothing for a puzzle. Now it appears there are a few options:

  1. Only include the puzzle piece as inventory.
You are carrying:
  a Galaxy Wars belt (being worn)

Which of course is a pretty strong hint it might be useful for some future challenge.

  1. Include other pieces of clothing as well:
You are carrying:
  a Galaxy Wars belt (being worn)
  a Galaxy Wars t-shirt (being worn)
  Galaxy Wars pants (being worn)

This of course would lead to situations like:

> drop pants
(first taking Galaxy Wars pants off)
Your sister Alice looks at you strangely. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
You put on Galaxy Wars pants.

Sounds to me like a lot of extra work. Opportunities for jokes, but not sure if it’s worth the effort.

  1. Include it as part of your description.
> x me
You are a teenage boy with short, spiky hair. You are wearing a Galaxy Wars t-shirt and jeans, complete with a Galaxy Wars belt, and have a black backpack with the Galaxy Wars logo on it slung over one shoulder.
> i
You are carrying nothing.

I am leaning towards option 3. Even more work, but avoids people taking off all kinds of clothing, and hides the fact that some clothing might actually be useful. Would this be a viable alternative to the other options? Or might players complain “hey not fair, you are not explicitly mentioning things I wear?”

Actually, now that I think of it, another approach might be even to treat examining yourself as taking inventory, and combine the two? (In both cases providing a description of yourself, including what you are wearing, and a list of your inventory items.) That would also fix the “You are carrying nothing.” message. Or would that be too off the beaten track?

  1. Obvious hint
  2. Red herrings
  3. Guess the noun

I lean toward #1. I’m too busy engaging time wasting puzzles otherwise. You can do whichever you want, as long as there’s a walkthrough handy.


Yeah, I agree with this – number 3 especially seems like it could feel like the author taking advantage of IF conventions to hide a useful item from the player.


Hmm I can see going against IF conventions might indeed be a bad idea. So be it. But can I at least make it look nicer?

I rather see:

You are wearing a Galaxy Wars belt, a Galaxy Wars t-shirt, and Galaxy Wars jeans. You are carrying an apple.

(I think I saw this in Dreamhold some time ago, and I remember thinking: that looks much nicer than the standard list of things…)


You are carrying:
  a Galaxy Wars belt (being worn)
  a Galaxy Wars t-shirt (being worn)
  Galaxy Wars jeans (being worn)
  an apple

Even though the latter is standard Inform7 issue, I rather like the former way of describing what the player has.

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The trope in standard IF is “the player is always considered to be dressed appropriately for the situation” unless clothing is specifically mentioned and implemented into the game world. Important items like a magic amulet are the exception. As mentioned clothes can provide character opportunities, and if you want to make it less obvious that the “magic amulet” is a plot point you can dress the player appropriately. Here’s a quick minimal implementation:

Laboratory is a room.

clothing is a kind of thing. Clothing is wearable. The description is usually "It's what you usually wear. It's comfy and prevents drafts and public outcry for exposure." Understand "clothes/shirt/blouse/pants/trousers/jeans/shoes/socks/garment" as clothing.

Check taking off clothing: say "It's not that kind of game!" instead.

some slacks are clothing worn by the player. a shirt is clothing worn by the player. some shoes are clothing worn by the player.

A key-shaped locket is worn by the player. The description is "You usually wear this around your neck. One day you will find the lock it fits." Understand "key/necklace/amulet/chain" as key-shaped locket.
>drop slacks
(first taking the slacks off)
It's not that kind of game!
>drop shirt
Which do you mean, the slacks, the shirt or the shoes?

That Understand line seems to be the trouble here. It works for slacks because it is NOT mentioned in that line? I guess I need to play a lot more with Inform7 to understand the Understand thing. I guess the parser considers drop shirt to be somehow matched as drop clothing and then needs to disambiguate because we are wearing three different kinds of clothing?


Yeah, I did biff that - it’s a common disambiguation issue. I did say it was quick! But if random clothing isn’t a necessary part of the game it still does the job of averting the player from stripping in a public place. :smiley: