Okay, so I’m wondering how common this experience is: You just made a game and it’s so awesome. You just need someone to play it. Unfortunately, the only potential players available to you are your computer illiterate aunt, a little brother, plus his friends, and maybe a goldfish. You decide to press them into service, anyway, only to find that what you took for granted as common sense in IF is actually much less intuitive than you thought. Or maybe the experience only managed to make an imprint of your palm on your forehead that wouldn’t disappear for a week. Either way, I’m guessing we could all share something on this topic.
If you have any stories along those lines, this thread would be the place to share them. Maybe we can come up with some common lessons in teaching IF, a list of common assumptions on the side of both authors & players, or maybe just share a chuckle or two at the expense of either party.
I’ll go ahead and get the ball rolling…
It seems like every new player has the same first reaction to seeing a screen full o’ text with that little command prompt: they say, “What do I do now?” Even in the case where help is offered on the screen (like a message saying, “If you don’t know how to play, type HELP and press enter.”), the result is practically inevitable. You might as well sing along when you start up a game for a newbie. This might just be a result of having an author peering over their shoulder, though… I would assume new players on their own tend to experiment a little more, but I have no way to prove or disprove that.
Just the other day I had an interesting experience with a new player. “So, what do I do?” he asked, and I directed him to check out the help message that the game offered him. As it turns out, this particular IF had a verb list attached, complete with syntax, and the player figured out first how to move.
But then I think he probably retained only one or two verbs from the list he had seen. Maybe it was too much to take in. I say this because-- oh, boy-- he expected movement alone to solve everything. When moving around didn’t work, he kept walking back and forth between rooms and typing >LOOK over and over again. When I asked what he was doing and what his plan of action was, he said he was getting frustrated because the room descriptions weren’t changing! He expected time to pass and events to take place that would either solve things on their own or tell him how to do what he needed to do.
Just goes to show, new players and veterans probably make a lot of different assumptions about typing >LOOK. I’ve also had a hard time getting new players to examine things in room descriptions (have you ever heard, “I’ve looked at everything!” when the player has yet to examine a single object?)… but perhaps I’ll delve into that later, since I don’t want to hog the thread. Maybe you have a similar story to share?
What have you seen new players do? Have they tried anything weird or different from what you’d expect? Where do you see them having trouble?