Time to discuss this already over used and abused topic.The compass that just won’t go away.
But why? Is it really so essential to gameplay that we use a system that seems so outdated? Is it really as outdated as it seems?
While I work on my games I always seem to comeback to thinking, how does the player always know which direction north is? I generally ignore this problem due to the fact most of my work focuses on ancient history, which allows me to give the player a physical compass solving my problem. Until today, where I am now working on a game set in space. And the issue presents a whole new conundrum, where is north?
In space concepts like north or south no longer apply, only on a planet with a magnetic field can this exist, so do I create something new? And then comes in the difficulty. How do you give a solid idea of direction. Originally I think left or right, but in that case I would have to program the game to respond depending in which direction you enter the room, and I’m just to lazy.
Thankfully my game is on a spaceship, so I just use naval terminology, Starboard, Port, Fore, and Aft. But not everyone has that advantage. In which case replacing the compass would become an almost situation. But is it really that hard to create a concept of direction that feels real. I remember Blue Lacuna did it well, but also had the problem in which, I could get impossible lost. Unable to remember how to go from one place to another. The directions just wouldn’t fit in my head. So pretty soon I turned I switched to the typical form of movement.
Yet I felt dirtied, that the effort that must have gone into it was wasted, because I was to lazy to try and learn something new, or to use my brain which could really do with some stretching.
So the question really is, why is it that we are still using a standard that was set before I was born? Is it the laziness of the writer, or of the player? Is it for lack of another way to adequately represent the game world without a solid image? Or does it express the difficulty of change in Parser based interactive fiction as a whole, that seems to lead to it becoming less and less widely used by the IF community?