Everyone makes excellent points.
However, having had time during my horribly long commute to think about this, I think I phrased the question wrong. Or, maybe the conversation needs widening.
There is a lot of discussion on ‘mechanics’ and Andrew makes the excellent point that this has been discussed since pretty much forever. I vaguely remember being part of a discussion with Gareth Rees (whatever happened to him?) and others around compass directions and whether or not there was a better approach back on r.a.if in the nineties (I can’t remember the conclusion - probably ‘no’) However, I’m talking about the text. The text is all there is in parser IF, and, unlike any other narrative text which needs to establish a million things like voice, context, narrative, plot, character, etc…etc… IF text is also required to cue the player/reader - to do stuff - to interact with the text in a way that drives the narrative. Which includes giving the player enough information to move around the game.
Andrew made the point that “I guess my view is that in traditional IF, the compass directions are not competing with the prose, nor distracting from it.” but I disagree slightly. For a ‘traditional IF’ game in which puzzles and goals are everything, fair enough. But in a game in which narrative voice and story are at the forefront, maybe so.
It feels like the ‘structure’ of an IF narrative has remained the same forever. Take a location description. In general, I would argue that 90% of location descriptions take the form of :
Going from a Scott Adams ish
Exits : NSEW
You can see: tree.
…has the way the author present the text to the player really changed in the last 30 years? The argument is: For us, this works. We’re used to it. We’ve always done it that way. Doesn’t make it right.
My original question was : ‘How do I elegantly embed a directional mechanic in the text without it being clunky and breaking player immersion, while still giving the player enough information so they don’t get irritated’
Given Twine and it’s ilk, which really does enable complete integration of game mechanic and text, I think the discussion really ought to be, for parser IF, ‘Does the traditional structuring of narrative elements within IF need a re-think?’ ‘Is there a way of more closely integrating game mechanic within the text?’
I don’t know the answers to this, of course. But I thought it interesting.