These rooms look EMPTY

You ever get to a point where you’ve implemented all the puzzles of a game, sigh with relief because your game is finally playable start to finish, then go back and look at your work and say, “Man, these rooms look EMPTY!”???

I don’t have a real question. Just venting because I realize how much work still lies ahead of me. If anyone has advice on fleshing out a world, I’ll take it though. I think I’m just planning on taking it one room at a time, looking at reference photos/art, and trying not to use more nouns than necessary.

Relevant links:
Descriptions Constructed
Developing A Setting For Fantastical IF


I hear you. There are a couple of rooms in my previous game that feel kind of empty to me, and I regret it.


Despite my experience with writing, I think room descriptions are really tough. It’s a different craft vs conventional prose. I found writing rooms more difficult than picking up Inform 7, really, and that’s not something that came naturally to me.


I guess instead of looking at it like “I’ve got 40-odd rooms to describe,” I could look at it like “I’ve got 40-odd opportunities to draw the player into my world and signpost their objectives so they don’t get lost.”


well, I first flesh the rooms, then puzzles & story narration,that is, the opposite development pattern (whose can led to a of sizeable lists of scenery & synonyms to be added as result of ßtesting), but the priority should be determined by design style; if you feel confortable in fleshing puzzles first, then rooms, please do so.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I value clarity and simplicity when I play a game, brief descriptions and an appropriate room title can go a long way. Once you have established a setting in the first few rooms, the player will need less and less input.

Your approach seems a sensible way foward, you can do it!


I try not to create superfluous rooms in general, although I know the impulse is to be like “Well, the player is crossing the desert, it’s got to be more than one room…” “Hotels usually have more rooms than the two that are important to the plot, so I’ve got to add 100 empty guest rooms…”

Liminal space is usually wasted space in IF and can become tedious if the player has to travel back and forth across it multiple times - unless you’re using it for pacing or world building via the descriptions (the grand approach to a tower in the desert), but that is hopefully figured out in advance! :slight_smile:


I had an IF idea a while back of a cursed desert that withheld what you desired. Ostensibly, if you saw a tower not too far off to the north, as you traveled north, instead of looming larger in your view, the tower would appear to recede further and further away until it disappeared below the horizon.

Additional details regarding thing no one asked to hear about.

You’d have to intentionally head south to approach and enter the tower. If you tried to drink from your canteen, you would get a mouthful of sand; eat the sand, get a mouthful of water. You get the idea.

Where I stalled out was having this play into one or more puzzles later in the game, including part of the climax, were the big bad would be pursuing you, and if you ran anywhere, they’d catch up to you and definitely murder you good. There would be just enough of a lead, however, to reach the edge of the cursed desert. Big bad follows you in. If you tried running away , they would stay just behind you, not gaining, not falling behind.

The big bad desires nothing more than catching you, and if you run, you’re only seeking to get away.

If you either stop running, or start running towards them, they would recede further and further away as they charged at you until they dissappeared over the horizon.

I wasn’t sure how best to hint this and had some bad testing reactions from my crack team of in-house professional testers (read: my spouse), so I haven’t made much progress.


I think the only rooms I have that are actually “wasted space” are in a tenement building that I didn’t think would seem believable if it only had two bedrooms (it has 9 rooms, not 100, and I might be able to cut it down to 6). Pretty much all the other rooms are essential to the plot/puzzles, plus two rooms that serve as junctions between several rooms that are. When I say the rooms feel empty, I mean the contents and exits are listed but there’s not much/any description to give you a feel for what the room might look like.


I usually do it in the opposite direction-- I write all the rooms & characters first, then do puzzle elements, but with my current WIP I wrote all the puzzles out on paper first. I’m coding room by room, though, so each room gets written and its puzzles coded one at a time.

It’s really hard for me to think and write non-linearly, which is why my code is always full of excess crap, byzantine, and horribly organized.


It sounds like you’re talking about my code, lol.


I tend to make the beginning of the game, then the end of the game, then I fill in the puzzle chain required to get the player from point A to point Z. Depending on the project, sometimes I need to make the map (or a rough mock-up of the map) early in the process. This game ends near where it starts, so the result has been that the room descriptions are more fleshed out in the first few rooms of the game (because I wrote them when I first started the project, with the rest of the rooms being a kind of afterthought when I was connecting the dots of the puzzle chain. I haven’t had any time to work on the game this weekend, but I have been thinking about how I’m going to tackle the problem (I even know what I’m going to put in several of those pesky empty tenement rooms).


One thing I have done is looking up stuff on Google Images. Want a Victoria lounge? Look up “victorian lounge” lounge, pick an image, and describe that.


Thanks. I do something similar when I’m describing objects and it will probably help with rooms. I usually skim wiki articles on things I’m describing too, but my setting is a little fantastical so sometimes that’s useful and sometimes it’s not. I put together a board on Pinterest too, which is helpful because there’s loads of sci-fi and fantasy art, surrealist paintings, prog rock album covers, as well as photos of locales.

Just in case anyone is curious:
Hinterlands: Delivered! (pin board)

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I think what follow is going to become my most incredible post-mortem of mine ever, but… let’s come out of the closet. (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

When I was making my first game, Andromeda Awakening, I had really no idea where I was going to. The only imagine in my mind was of someone riding a tube of sorts in a very distant place from Earth. Something on this can be found, iirc, in the help menu in Apocalypse, the sequel.
I went in coding a room at a time, just as a hobby, not thinking too much (it didn’t occur to me to put this in IFComp until it was done—or ALMOST done—in time for the deadline). No weight upon my shoulders, you know.

So, eventually, I finished the tropes about “your building/your alien city” pretty fast.

At a certain point in time I was staring at the empty screen with room #X in front of me, which I didn’t even have a name for. “What now?” I asked myself. I had a city, a railway station, something happening underground—no idea what—, a cave full of magma… uhm. “Is it over? Did I reach page 140?” *

Closed my eyes. Invented a word. Wrote it down as the name of the room. Then started typing random ideas.

The room was called “Hyerotrope”. It had an obsidian-like floor. In the middle, a gargantuan, reflection-less sphere, breathing and contaminating the surroundings with azure light tentacles. Half an hour before I had no idea what my story was about; the next minute, I had a universe. **

My suggestion: close your eyes. Imagine a place. Make it so it’s the most unconventional site you ever seen. Is it a hotel room? Well, what’s that Persian carpet doing in the middle of the cyberpunk setting? And why is it embroided with titanium threads? Oh, and this hall: who went so mad as to add giant golden rhinos with greek letters on them? Why the portrait of Sir Barry Hollencraft, owner of the hotel, is so much of a King Charles III look-alike?

And, why does the floor look so much like HUMAN SKIN?

Some of these are probably a little too far for your setting (of which I know nothing). But I hope you can extract something from the method, at least.

My 2 cents.

*) My many folders are full with novels which I gave up on around page 140. Looks like a curse of sorts. Or it tells a lot, mathematically, about one’s ADHD momentum.

**) I destroyed it, too. Or am in the way of doing. And all around the random naming of a single room. Just wish I have the strength to finish the trilogy…