Standard Verbs

Thanks for the plug; my own suggestion would be the actions by command page of the I7 Standard Rules action reference spreadsheet.

Aaron Reed’s Extended Grammer has some thoughtfully curated additions. (Inform 7 extension, but readable enough by anyone seeking game command candidate vocabulary.)

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I’d like to thank everyone for responding to my question - there certainly are some comprehensive verb lists out there! I was coming at this from the perspective of wanting to start with a basic lexicon with which the majority of games should start and which actions most players would expect to be able to perform in the majority of games (OPEN, CLOSE, JUMP, WEAR, REMOVE, FILL, EMPTY, etc.). As I write my games, additional context-specific, theme-specific, and noun-specific verbs would emerge, and then testing would identify any quirky verbs or synonyms that I’ve missed. So while not every game would need to recognise 100+ verbs, all games will recognise at least the core 50-or-so (plus synonyms), and then each game might recognise another 20-40 (or more) verbs relevant to the theme, puzzles, story, and nouns in that game.

My thinking was that as I start populating my adventure with nouns, I’d have a reference for the kind of common actions experienced gamers are likely to want to do to a ‘thing’ to determine its function in the game (EXAMINE, obviously, but what else?). I’d then supplement that with the specific things a player needs to do, then identify from testing what people actually try. Thereby finding the balance between overengineering hundreds of verbs but also not frustrating experienced players by missing commands they would expect.

The missing piece for that approach is that fundamental list - do experienced gamers always expect to be able to PUSH/PULL/MOVE things that could reasonably be pushed, pulled, or moved, for example? Or should every body of water have a response to SWIM or DRINK, for example, even if that doesn’t progress the story or solve a puzzle for the player?

The verb lists shared here have given me plenty of food for thought, and I’ve supplemented what I think my future games’ starting command list should consist of from them (especially with regard to synonyms).

I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this thread once I further through my next game :slight_smile:.

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I find it very jarring (and immersion-breaking) when basic actions like this are unrecognised. If I see a rug on the floor, I’m going to try to move it (thanks Zork!).

I think the general consensus is that “use” is a bad idea, as players will just try using everything everywhere, especially if the parser is very simple (or old) and only has one noun. Then you can just lawnmower through every location “use”-ing every noun and the game will eventually find something to use it on.

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@CobwebbedDragon

I don’t know if many games do this, but I think it could be rewarding if you kind of punish the player for being too nosy at times. Moving a large vase may scratch the floor and anger the owner. Reaching behind something might cause you to snag the fabric of your shirt, making you less presentable. Just a thought, since you were thinking about extraneous verbs.

This is a great topic, by the way. I hope you do come back to it with further insight.

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USE is definitely out. I’d prefer a player be explicit about how they want to use something or what they want to use something for. Don’t USE MATCHES, LIGHT CANDLES instead.

So I’m definitely with the consensus on that one.

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That’s an interesting idea. It’s hard to punish a player in a game without resorting to docking points or ending the adventure prematurely (especially to do it in a way that fits with the game’s narrative and doesn’t jar with the game’s theme or immersion), but I like the idea of some narrative inconvenience that crops up later in the adventure from a player being too metagamey.

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In reality, the player is being rewarded. The clever feedback gives them a sense of accomplishment. If you wanted, you can make an obsessive compulsive achievement. At the end of the game, you can state the accomplishments as full descriptive sentences and then state that there are X more to find. The meta-game aspect is something to consider and would cater to another category of gamer.

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Though I agree that the Inform standard library is a great starting point I wouldn’t necessarily call it the gold standard. It is my impression that it was historically a product of how Inform came about and that it was highly influenced by Infocom which was very succesful especially in the US but what was standard deviated quite a lot in other parts of the world / on different platforms where Infocom did not dominate.

Parsers keep developing. For instance I think “talk to” has become more popular than ask/tell and I don’t see that it is obvious that e.g. “look in mirror” defaults to “search mirror” to give a few examples. Especially “search” is not so common anymore so I think the author should state clearly if search is ever required in addition to examine.

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I think we did something like this in a small way in Nowheresville. If I recall correctly, hitting yourself with the hammer gives you an annoying message every turn about how you’re in pain. I think.

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The Inform standard library was heavily influenced by Infocom by way of Curses. This is noticeable when you start to pick out the “dry British humor” from the general parser responses.

It’s also worth noting that Inform’s standard verb set has been trimmed down over the years. (For example, SWIM used to be in there, but now it’s not.) So as a standard, it’s gone through some revision.

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In my TALP game, there are quite a few little additional responses that aren’t required to complete the game but create a little bit of narrative richness for players that see a chair and think to sit in it, for example. Little rewards for players that think to do ‘obvious’ things when they see something, but not essential to complete the game for beginners who might not necessarily think to perform those kinds of actions (or don’t think they can do that in an adventure game). Of course, if a player then went around trying to sit on everything, they would be disappointed that I haven’t coded a response to SIT CUPBOARD or SIT CLOCK :smiley: .

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I’ve been coding SEARCH as a straight synonym for EXAMINE (i.e., no exceptions - I’ve coded some synonyms with exceptions, so STRIKE as a synonym for HIT except when applied to a MATCH). And interesting to note that parsers are as much subject to tradition and fashion as everything else.

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Good to know. I have adapted to USE because of point & click adventures. My IF is heavily using object interaction, so I’ll keep that in mind.

So perhaps USE should prompt something like “How do you want to use …?”

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Or even suggest the most appropriate verb:

> USE MATCHES

[Possibly you wanted to LIGHT THE MATCHES.]

This is in some sense a spoiler, but it’s nearly always a case where the experienced IF player would know the right verb without thinking. It doesn’t have to suggest uncommon or surprising verbs; by the time the player gets to real puzzles, they’ll be out of the habit of USE anyway.

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@Pebblerubble

I like the old parser graphic adventure games because you had to be more specific with every action. When the generic “use” icon was created for point-and-click, it took a lot of the magic out of the games by leading to unexpected actions happening. Like if you were to use the toilet, you might expect to flush it, but instead the game takes the lid off and exposes that tank. The player might have wanted to lift the seat for all the author knows, but that generic use command can turn into a magic wand. If you simply went around saying “wave wand on X”, the same level of interaction is happening… and I don’t find that rewarding.

Not saying that that’s what you’re doing, but it’s something to consider, at least.

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I’d be LOOK BEHIND TAPESTRY, SCRATCH WALL, POKE CLAY, LOOSEN BRICK all over the place.

(and yes, I expect all of those and more to be standard verbs…)

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You’d also LICK DOOR HANDLE. :wink:

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The brick wiggles loose and falls out of its orderly spot within the wall. Upon closer inspection you notice a small letter, folded neatly in the newly formed pocket. You remove the letter. With elegant penmanship, it reads, “Seriously?”

:wink:

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This has become a standard joke, but I just played a game where you really do have to lick something. Two things, actually.

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Was it EAT ME by Chandler Groover, by any chance?

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