Things not needed yet: what to do?

I’m a big proponent of game-ier IF having an “introduction” section that introduces the main mechanics, giving the player a chance to get used to them and solve some basic puzzles before being thrust into the main body of the game.

However, my IFComp entry is set in a relatively small space (a single house), and I’m having trouble isolating the introduction from the rest of the game. It would be really convenient—and lead to more reuse of rooms and items—if the rooms from the introduction can also be important for later puzzles.

This puts me in a bit of a bind. I could omit those items from the descriptions during the introduction, but then how will players know to go back and look later? I could give them descriptions saying “this isn’t important to your current task” during the intro, but that might just frustrate people. Or I could separate the introduction and later areas completely, but that means the intro rooms and items never come up again, instead of being used in puzzles later on.

What do you think would give the best experience?

  • Have the items be present from the start, so players remember them
  • Don’t mention the items in descriptions until after the intro
  • Have them be present, but say “don’t worry about that yet”
  • Separate the intro from the rest of the game completely
  • Something else?
0 voters
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For a specific example: in the introduction, you’re confined to the sitting room, and have to figure out how to escape. There’s a big window in the sitting room with a binocular stand in front of it; later in the game, you find something you can put on the stand to look through, but you don’t have anything like that at the moment.

Option 1 would be “Your ill-conceived binocular stand is fixed in front of the bay window.” printing during the intro scene.

Option 2 would be nothing printing at all.

Option 3 would be printing that message, but if you try to mess with it, the game says “That won’t be much help in escaping the room.”

Option 4 would be putting that binocular stand in a different room completely, so the sitting room never matters again.

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Does this mechanism need to be introduced all at once, or can you break it into parts? This way you can have them learn a bit of it in several rooms and everything isn’t so overwhelming. Is the mechanism complex?

If it is, I’d say have either disposable items that go away, or reward the player right away with an object they keep, but then the room isn’t important again.

It really all depends on how much you’re throwing at the player in that first room, text-wise and mechanism-wise. Are they going to have to mess around in there for a while?

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If I kept it in-place, I’d gently suggest trying again later. I would prefer that as a player, too. If my story was already working well with that room, I’d probably try to make that work.

But a tailor-made intro area is easier to build, so 3 isn’t a bad option if it can work in your narrative.

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Id say leave it in. If it’s a small enough house and is really easy to traverse (this is very important), then you can leave it in the room, and, like many classic text adventures (very top on my mind is Prince Quisborne from IFComp 2023), you don’t know what it’ll be used for until later. Then if you can travel back there, it’ll be easy.

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The main thing getting introduced here is standard text adventure stuff—the way you get free requires TAKE, DROP, compass directions, PUSH, PULL, SIT ON, and that sort of thing. For experienced players it shouldn’t be anything challenging, so I’m just worried about new players getting overwhelmed.

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Oh, then I wouldn’t worry and would just leave it in. They need to escape this room, right? That means they’ll be in there a while and they’ll see this base and try to mess with it and be told, “It’s a telescope stand sans telescope.” That should be memorable.

2 Likes

it’s kinda corny, but does the character wake up in the sitting room? The intro could all be a dream…

3 Likes

Tutorials are hard. In the games that I’ve written with a tutorial, I’ve generally done it over a couple of rooms. In retrospect, I think this is a mistake.

I’ve tried to present the tutorial in a set order, but still allow the player to ignore it and do whatever they want. There are times when this gets messy. You should also give the option to turn the tutorial off, but if the player turns it back on later in the game, the tutorial messages may seem out of place.

So, all in all, I think I would prefer the tutorial to be restricted to the first room and prevent the player leaving that room until the tutorial is complete. The last tutorial hint would therefore be how to move about and once they’ve left the first room, you can say “You’re now on your own”. You can still return to the first room later in the game to use those items that weren’t used in the tutorial.

For an interesting approach, see the tutorial in The Wolf by Leo Weinreb in Text Adventure Literacy Jam 2024.

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Ooh ooh! And they wake up to realise they ARE in that room, just that it’s changed!

Or… If they live or can stay overnight in the house, it’s the next day, and things have changed…

Ideally there would be some mundane but unnecessary(for the main part of the game) use for the items in the tutorial. If you can’t find such a use then “don’t worry about that for now” is fine. If you feel like it, some of those messages might instead/additionally contain clues about their later use.

> examine stand
If you had a binocular or camera you could have put the stand to good use. Alas, you don’t have anything of the sort.

Edit: Another trick would be keeping the description of such items locked in the room description and move them to their own paragraph only after the tutorial is over; that way they wouldn’t just appear out of nowhere. Parser players are used to scenery items mentioned only in the room’s description, but they will realize that they might no longer be scenery when the game proper starts.

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I find intriguing Zed’s narrative solution…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

Maybe a solution would be to set the tutorial in the same house but at an earlier time. If the tutorial takes a week ago; objects may have moved since then, and objects may not have been relevant then but are relevant now.

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Explicitly tell the player things will have changed, without using any narrative tricks?

What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified. 

Can’t you just do two copies of the first room, one containing only the tutorial stuff, and one with everything?

Once you leave the first room, substitute the second one for it.

Oh, mechanically speaking it’s easy enough. But I worry it could lead to frustration when people search the whole rest of the map for a binocular stand, thinking they’ve already checked those rooms.

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Perhaps it’s a mindset thing. I work pretty much entirely in choice-based IF, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to return to an area and find new choices at a different stage in a game/story, but perhaps the average parser player expects a world that is invariant other than through their own actions?

Or if you can, separate the room by time. You can have much the same room, but just with what you need.

“Ah, this is not the first time you had to escape this room. But, hmmm, unfortunately things have changed…”

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