Thoughts on Extra Windows

What do people think about having seperate windows for games, which would include either an automatically refreshing inventory, or a status screen, or the room description, a list of available spells, or something like that? Do people think having alternate windows would leave things cluttered, or would the convience of not having to repeatadly take inventory make it worth it?

I would try out Dead Cities and see what you think of the dedicated inventory window.

One advantage is that it lets you immediately call the player’s attention to certain objects at the start of the game, without mentioning them in the opening text or requiring the player to pick them up first. One disadvantage is that it places a lot of emphasis on the inventory and its contents, which may not be appropriate if your game is not primarily about what you are carrying.

Also, if part of the challenge of solving a puzzle is remembering that you have a certain item, you may not wish to have it listed on the screen at all times. I could see this being the case for spells as well.

I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule. My instinct is that unless the player would otherwise have to take inventory every few turns, having a dedicated window for that purpose is probably overkill. Conceivably you could have a situational inventory window that only appears when seated at a desk or working in the alchemy lab, giving you a useful overview of the contents without unduly privileging that information. The map in King of Shreds and Patches follows this model.

I see what you mean there.

I have a game where the player has a spellbook- and one of the spells can be used to reverse all the others. (Such as locking a door instead of unlocking it). One of the puzzles involving spells is timed, as well as involves an NPC animal that moves around, so taking time to check which way your spells are can be a pain in the butt, and it seems like having a spells window can be useful.

I’ve also seen games like Beyond Zork where the room description prints off in a seperate area, away from the command history, alleviating your need to LOOK over and over. (This window changes to an inventory window when you take inventory).

On one hand, it makes the game easier for newbs to play. OTOH, I feel it makes the work too game-like. I forget even to check the status line on most games, and prefer the prose do as much work as possible.

I guess I should say: it depends on the kind of work it is. I thought offering dialogue options in a bottom window in Pytho’s Mask was pretty elegant, but having a separate window for every bit of information just says to me that the author is more comfortable with videogames than with story.

Would you complain that a film director using certain effects (say, a pseudo-documentary style) was “more comfortable with movies than with story”? Aren’t you confusing medium with content?

Things don’t need to look and behave like books in order to tell a good yarn.

I guess you could say the same thing about a parser input…

If the effects get in the way of the story, then yes. Like Ron said, these kinds of things can be used well, but if they’re overused or just used badly, it can pull the attention away from the main thing. Interfaces and special effects shouldn’t take the focus.

I’d say Tetris’s content is all videogame, no story.

I dunno. I’m just telling you how I feel about multiple windows.

But these are the means by which a movie tells a story. The way the camera moves (or remains static) can enhance or detract the story, but its an unavoidable part of making a movie.

Being comfortable with your medium is how you learn to use it well for storytelling (or anything else). To state that someone is more comfortable with their storytelling medium than with storytelling just seems like a really weird statement to me.

And that’s because it doesn’t do any storytelling, not because it tries to tell a story with multiple windows.

In Tetris Worlds the Tetrite People are facing natural disasters and they have to complete various tetris challenges to unlock portals to alternate worlds that they can live on.

Not much of a story- but a story.

Quoted for George Lucas.

It’s not just visual effects that take on gimmick status and overwhelm the story. Syrupy strings are used to make up for wooden dialogue and stiff acting; a cat leaping from off-camera is used to spice up a leaden pace; television cliffhangers are used to inject tension at the end of the show, rather than construct actual tension during it; fast cuts are used to seal plot holes and mask an incoherent plot that the protagonists should’ve solved in the first 3 minutes. In fact, it’s pretty easy to let the gimmick take over.

I dunno about a second window in this case; I think it’s an assist to gameplay rather than a gimmick. Maybe include a pair of commands for the player: “If you wish to review your current spells, use SPELL LIST. If you’d rather see a list of your current spells in a separate window, use the command SPELL WINDOW.”

I would agree as far as storytelling mediums it’s a weird statement. But videogames aren’t a storytelling medium: they are something broader. (Proof of that statement: Tetris does not attempt a story and succeeds admirably, Bioshock does attempt, and also succeeds.) So I think it makes sense to say one can be comfortable with making videogames but not with storytelling. To me (and this is the subjective part), multiple windows indicates the creator is, or is currently operating as, a Tetric creator.

Exactly which medium is this untrue for? Are books only used for storytelling? Movies? Radio shows? Every medium is used for all sorts of things - and those other things often produce interesting tools that can be appropriated for storytelling purposes. Which is why I asked if a fictional film shot in a pseudo-documentary style provokes the same response from you.

I agree as well. I just don’t see why this is unique to videogames. One can be comfortable with writing or making movies, or singing, or roleplaying, and still be uncomfortable with storytelling.

And was JJ Abrams acting as a documentarian when he made Cloverfield?

There is a difference too between the story IF and the puzzle IF.

In a story IF, there may not be need for extra windows. Photopia sure wouldn’t have benefited from it. However, it would have been nice in Enchanter to see your spells and spells memorized up at all times. Likewise the Beyond Zork minimap is great (even if not a seperate window). Lock & Key would have been a huge Pain in the Butt if not for the minimap to the side.

Overall the seperate window is basically a more advanced Status Line, it need not be a seperate window as much as a break in the current one. And it need not break storytelling.

Mentioning Photopia in this context is an interesting choice (even though the original question was about extra text windows): The game (the Glulx version) makes relatively heavy use of graphics and colors and the text area is lined with windows that show the game’s title colored according to the current scene. You could argue that they add nothing to the text-only version, but I’m sure Adam had some reason to include them.