Signs of a Newbie - How do I avoid them?

Hey folks,

I’m doing an independent study at my college, in which I create an IF piece (my Writing for Digital Media class was required to play through Bronze, and I fell madly in love with IF :smiley: ). The first version of the work is more or less finished, but I know that for people who have been doing this for some time, there are probably some terribly obvious signs of a first time author - stuff I never would have considered on my own. For example, I recently saw a post on here about a “neutral library” extension, and somebody complained that new authors don’t override most of the default actions. And then, there’s all this stuff about “tone breaking” when the parser gives a response you didn’t want.

So my question is this - what basic holes should I plug, so that people playing it don’t stop and think, “Noob!”?

Thanks guys.

The most obvious answer is to have good beta testers, and to listen to what they have to say.

Another vote for testers. Absolute #1 noob error is releasing a game that hasn’t been thrashed around by a few testers.

There are others, but … testers will find them :slight_smile:

Some questions you could ask yourself are:

  • Did you implement the nouns mentioned in your room description? (If your room description mentions a table, the player should at least be able to examine the table.)
  • Have you considered the plausible actions people will try with the objects you have created? (Trying to turn on a computer, eat the forbidden fruit, or pet the cat should at least give some response.)
  • Have you thought about how the player is supposed to know how to proceed through the game – what his/her goals are, how the puzzles (if there are any) could be solved, and so on?

If the answers to all those questions are “yes”, you have already avoided the worst pitfalls. Sure, it’s not good if the response to “examine me” is the default “As good-looking as ever.”, but it is not awful either.

But, yes: testers. Always a necessary step, and they’ll quickly identify any “signs of a newbie”.

That’s good advice. If you’re looking for must-have user-friendly extensions, why not try out Aaron Reed’s new “Player Experience Upgrade?” … -results=2

The only thing I would add is this: It’s your first game. There’s no need to pretend that it’s not. Make it the best that you can and don’t worry about making mistakes. You will learn from them and your next game will be better! For that reason, it might be wise to start with a project that is small in scope.

Depending on how much time you can afford to squander, it may be helpful to read recent-ish reviews of existing games, to get a feel for what the current community standards are. For example, the annual Competition has a wide quality spread, and in recent years, plenty of bloggers have been erudite in pointing out the good and the bad. Reading some past reviews will also get you acclimated to some of the tired tropes that you probably shouldn’t include unless you have a genuinely new take on them; for example, “set in my apartment!!!”, mazes of twisty passages all alike, and “amnesia!!!” have all been done many, many times before.

Learn about the Zarfian Cruelty scale and take a stance on where you want your game to fall on it. Personally, I prefer to play games that are no crueler than “Tough,” (or leave Nastiness to the endgame), and I think the general community feeling has been in that direction lately, but it’s fine to make a Nasty or Cruel game as long as you’re aware you’re doing it (ahem, Varicella). And if you do, it would be polite to include a note about it, unless extra cruelty is really Part of Your Game (in which case, think long and hard about whether you’re doing a good thing).

As others have said, beta-testing is a must, and it’s considered good etiquette to thank your beta-testers in a reasonably obvious place (such as an “About” or “Credits” text), both out of politeness for your testers and as an assurance to your players. Don’t forget to run your text by someone who is a good copy editor.

If you’re having doubts about the direction of your story, it’s not out of the question to have alpha-testers, either, even before you’ve written code. Pull some friends in early to get their opinions about the kind of story you’re telling and how you’re telling it; try describing any puzzles you might include to see if they think the puzzles are fair and clever.

The flip side of this is that there’s no need to keep reminding us of it, either. Don’t be self-deprecating! One of the most obvious noob-type mistakes is the game in which every object is described with “um it is just ur sofa there is nothing really interesting about it. i don’t even know why it’s in this game” or some such.

Browse through the following links: … g/cam.html … enture.txt … pguide.htm

Some of these are geared toward the IF Comp, but they all contain a lot of useful information on good game design. “Crimes Against Mimesis” is also available in the recently-released IF Theory Reader, and “The Craft of Adventure” is available in the DM4 (The Inform Designer’s Manual, 4ed).

I wrote a short article on the subject a while back that identifies a couple of things that have the sloppyness vibe: … your-game/

Also David Fisher’s IF Gems is a great collection of elements reviewers have liked and not liked. The web site seems to be defunct now but it’s available in the IF archive: …

Thanks, folks. You’re incredibly helpful, and I’ll go through those links. At the very least I can say that it isn’t set in an apartment, there are no twisty little passages (except for Nick Montfort book on my shelf :wink: ), nobody has amnesia, and it isn’t crazy difficult (I didn’t even have time to make it as complex as I wanted). I think it qualifies as “polite” in its current state. And I have descriptions of almost everything, and plans to make descriptions of everything else before I submit it as “finished.” Hooray!

And evidently, I have to go acquire testers. Do you recommend testers who are new to IF, somewhat familiar with IF, or frequent users of IF? Or some mix? Like 20-60-20 or something? I may be making this more complicated than necessary.

I giggled. I hope that’s never been an actual object description.

I think so, yes. :slight_smile: Having at least one person who has played some IF before would seem helpful, but otherwise I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

Well. After hope comes despair, but after despair resignation and perhaps even Gelassenheit.