When is the floor not the floor?

Hi all,

I have previously asked for help with defining where we use the nouns FLOOR and GROUND - floor for inside locations, ground for outside, was agreed upon.

However, being rather OCD, what if the location is, for example a rampart on the wall of a castle? Would the walking surface of that be floor or ground?

Or should I actually call it the SURFACE? Would “You see nothing special about the surface you’re walking on.” be acceptable?

Any thoughts appreciated.


I got a room where the player actually stands on a catwalk, suspended over a deep drop below. In this case, the floor was called “the catwalk”.

In a few ventilation ducts (which the player can crawl through) the floor was called something like “the bottom panels” among other synonyms.

I hope this is on-topic. I had some difficulty understanding what you were saying, but language is also not my strength, so there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve written.


If I’m on the rampart and can see the ground (in or out of the castle) that would probably prevent me calling what I’m on The Ground. Whether I’d feel okay calling it the floor would be based on a pile of arbitrary circumstantial differentiations… that’s me with no historical knowledge. Maybe they did call it the floor! But if you accept all of floor, ground and rampart, then respond (in your demonstrated style) ‘You see nothing unusual about the rampart’ - that’s one approach I’d find satisfactory as someone similarly fussy. I only implement ‘surface’ if I clearly presented that word to the player myself in a description.



I used to distinguish between the “floor” for inside areas and the “ground” for outside areas, but today I don’t think it’s worth it, and I just use them interchangeably. As your example proves, there are just too many edge cases, and besides, I never heard someone say “The game is good, but the parser is not finnicky enough” :slight_smile:


I can think of 2 reasons why you’d need to make this distinction:

  • the user can interact directly with the ground
  • the ground is referred to in the descriptions

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the first case in a game and would be interested in examples where you’d need it.

In the second case you could probably replace “ground” with the room, eg “the doodad is on the rampart”.

I’d implement “floor” and “ground” as synonyms for the floor in every room, and if you want to be nitpicky, you can change the description of it in each location: " A polished wood floor," “bare dirt,” “the rampart’s rough-hewn stones,” etc.

I don’t think I should be in the business of telling players what is and is not a floor or a ground or a rampart. Just include the reasonable words as synonyms and then it doesn’t matter what they type.


Certainly, but it might show up in printed messages as well.

say “In the confusion, [the noun] slips from your grasp and falls to the ground.”;

Players won’t object to “the ground” as a generic term – that’s IF tradition – but you might want to customize the wording as a matter of polish.


IIRC I’ve seen cases of interacting with the floor as part of a process of finding a trapdoor or loose floorboard or something of the sort.


In that case I would expect the trapdoor to be directly shown to the player - you move the dresser or rug and the game tells you there is a trapdoor. If it doesn’t and you need to search the floor after moving the rug I’d never find it. I suppose the game could tell you there is something suspicious about the floor without giving further details to examine instead (like a loose floorboard).

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I would be careful about that, since that term might be used in descriptions of stock items for holding up items, like tables and counters.

It’s also easy to slip in that term with custom descriptions: “With a sigh of relief, you set the baseball on the surface of the glass table.”

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Yes, this is what I meant: situations where either the room description or the response to an action gives you the impression that something is weird about the floor and you then have to examine it or touch it to find out more about that. (I was envisioning a discreet trapdoor, like the floor equivalent of a secret door that looks like a wall panel, not an obvious one hidden under a rug, so I’m sorry for not being clear enough about that.)

Edit: Strictly speaking you probably don’t need to implement the floor to do this, but not having it as a synonym for “creaky board” or “suspicious-looking patch of tile,” or at least having it give you a custom response that indicates you need to be interacting with a more specific part of the floor, seems like an odd choice.


I abandoned the idea, but I originally planned to have backdrops for floor/ground/etc and ceiling/sky/etc in each geographical region, adding an instead of doing anything other than examining to the trailer floor (for instance) to prevent weirdness. As others have already suggested, I’d let synonyms resolve perceived differences.

The descriptive text could be conditional if one room has a unique floor (a trapdoor, etc). The anything other than could be conditional, too (“only the trapdoor warrants your attention”)

Maybe I will do something like this for the next release of RTE. I’ve tried to accommodate reasonable commands, and this seems reasonable.

Note: this is an Inform 7-centered post, but I’m sure it can apply to other systems.


I’m mainly a Naval historian, but a rampart, if used for its intended role, ground should be the one outside the castle/fortress, but this type of military installation has also an inside ground, that is, the parade ground the floor of the rampart is, well, its floor.

My opinion is that the default disamb should be the outside ground (abstracting from moats, low bastions &c.) and the parade ground should be another object/location and the floor is, well, the floor of said rampart.

a little example

You’re on the rampart


(the outside ground)
On the outside ground, the enemies advance very cautiously. a serjeant waves his hands in inciting the troops to advance


On the parade ground, the troops are frantically donning their armour and taking their weapons


on the floor of the rampart is a a bow and a quiver of arrows

(first taking the bow and the quiver of arrows)

You aim carefully the serjeant and your arrow hits him on the shoulder ! the enemies froze on the ground below, some even retreating a bit; now you have gained the precious time for manning the ramparts and defenses !

[optional score and/or acheviement up]

whose illustrate the point, I think.
Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


In answer to @Lazzah’s original question, it sounds like you’re trying to do this in a generic way. Assuming all your rooms have a property to indicate whether they’re indoors or outdoors, the rampart would be ground, as it’s outdoors, and ground just sounds right for this particular situation. (I guess I’m interpreting outdoors as meaning you don’t have a roof over your head.)

You would have to be careful of situations where you’re outdoors, but not on the ground, e.g. hanging from a parachute in the air or swimming in the ocean.

DIG is a pretty common example. I’m most familiar with Inform 6, where 'dig' noun is the normal grammar. I always extend this to allow 'dig' by itself, but I’ve seen games that use DIG GROUND or similar. Obviously, DIG FLOOR wouldn’t make sense.


I was probably thinking more about floors when I made that comment. I’ve been trying to think of ways floors could be interesting. A few ideas…

  • the floor is uneven and things roll on it
  • the floor has a giant hole in it
  • the room rotates so the wall/ceiling becomes the floor (like the movie the Poseidon adventure)
  • trapdoors
  • vents. They’re probably to small to enter but could contain lost items
  • the floor is damaged in some way - water damage, scratches from a lurking monster
  • the floor is dirty - a trail of slime from a monster

I thought this sounded familiar, so I checked my source. Indeed, Dreamhold does something like this. Many rooms have custom floor and ceiling objects, and the rest share some floating (backdrop) floor and ceiling objects.

Every floor object responds to both ‘floor’ and ‘ground’, but some of them have extra synonyms as well. The printed name is often customized too.

I can’t remember if there’s a game-specific need for those features, or if I just wanted to make Dreamhold feel really solidly implemented.

(I didn’t bother doing it in Hadean Lands, so I was probably just overthinking the problem in Dreamhold.)


I think I had testers that wanted to interact with either a wall or a ceiling, and I thought: “why not just head this whole thing off?” In the end, I only implemented what testers tried, which tapered off after the first three regions.

I don’t yet have a knack for guessing what players will try beyond the telegraphed stuff (a big red button is in the lab).


I’m doing all the things you mentioned in my WIP. My initial reason was that this game is so implemented, not having ceilings and walls and floors would stand out as an obvious omission. Since the geography, architecture, time of day and POV character vary a lot, there’s been decent value to be had from all the descriptions of these surfaces in this game. I haven’t had to do much else with them.



I don’t think this is something a person can truly gain an intuition for. It’s possible to study game design for the most common elements and strategies, but you’re really only going to know what players will do by doing testing.

Computational irreducibility, or something like that.


I’ve implemented a similar thing, floor, ceiling, walls, with options for missing any of them in any location, including, say, floating in the water or air (for instance before you’re caught by a roc). Haven’t used them yet because they’re so time intensive to fill in details.