General feedback from text adventure writers wanted

I'd be interested in options from others to what I have written.
I'd been interested in adventure games for a long time and over time I've seen a range of good entertaining to bad frustrating games.

How much help should the player get:
Does the player need always need open a door to enter a room or should the player just type GO EAST and get the message "You open the door and enter the room". Having the player type "Open door" doesn't seem to add any value or interest to the adventure.
Also once the door is opened then it does not make sense to type 'open the door' each time you revisit the same room. Maybe "a door to the east" text could be replaced with "you see a bedroom to the east" once the door is opened.

If you type "Read Paper" for a sheet of paper that's on the ground then having to put it up first means extra typing for the player where a message "You pick up the paper and read it, it says...." saves on typing in words.

"You discovered something" message can be a problem as the object does not appear in the list of room objects when the object comes into the room until the player types LOOK. So I'm thinking of adding a message of what the object is. "You discovered a key", "A rabbit has entered the room", "The magic bean has turned into a diamond". Or maybe its better for the player to try and find something new in the room.

How realistic should a adventure be:
Should the player be able to swim when he has a ladder in his inventory? If the player discovers a fire then should there be a reason why the fire is there (who lit the fire) and why it is still burning when no one is about to put wood on the fire? Should the player be able to light a fire using matches after the player has been swimming, should be matches be wet? Maybe the adventure should be of more fantasy where anything is possible.

Lost in the woods:
I noticed that some text adventures make it difficult to find your way out of places like the woods. Some directions can cause the player to be at the same location. If your at location Woods 5 and go east then you go to Woods 5, in other words you do a U turn back to where you are. The player could keep typing East and still not get out of the woods. I personally don't like this what do you think? It might have been put in adventures in the past when the was a limit on the number of locations that the writer could have.

Wasting the players time:
If the player does not have a certain item and manages to get near the finish of the adventure, many hours later then it only frustrates the player knowing that he needs a key to open a door and the player failed to get the key at the start of the adventure. Maybe some clue is needed during the game.

Haven't got a clue:
In some adventures the adventure writer seems to think that the player knows everything so things such as picking up a pile of dirt, cleaning the dirt and finding a treasure is not the thing a player would normally do unless there is some helpful clue.
The worst thing about text adventures is only being able to play a small amount of the adventure because you get stuck in the game and can't seem to find a way past a problem that needs solving.

Any feedback would be most welcome thanks.

Brian


Typically, the key to a door would be somewhere nearby. I might have an npc player give them a key and tell them what it if for so the player will know to keep it.

A door the player opens will remain open unless they close it so they only open it once.

Being lost in the woods is just that. It will take a series of correct direction entries to find your way out. it is a puzzle. Nope, I don't care for them.

Discoveries new to the room will require the author to 'ShowRoomDescription' to reprint an up to date description.

Items, if in reach should be readable or looked at without picking them up.


Thanks for your feedback Forgewright.

The message "I've found something" may not be noticed so if you use this code it will be added to the room description after the ShowRoomDescription.
{here Treasure:{once:I've found something}}


Note:
{here Treasure:{once:I've found something}}
is added to the room description.


The short answer to a lot of that is "it depends".

I think part of the interest and challenge of adventure games is that not everything is automatic. If the door to a room is shut, you have to open it. Perhaps you can't open it, in which case: what? Is there a key? Some other way to gain entry? E.g. creative use of some other tool in your possession? Or some other way to get in there? Certainly under normal circumstances once you open a door it should stay open, but I think that's how Quest does it by default. And yes, you can change the room description accordingly.

Where I really agree with you is I hate "arbitrary" puzzles (as in your example, the game might be full of the great outdoors where there's a lot of dirt, and who wants to dig it all up just in case?). So there should always be clues; though they can be subtle, they should be fair (so once the player discovers the trick, their response is likely to be "hah! Clever!" rather than "well that sucks."

You can see how I solved (or tried to solve!) the competing needs of challenge vs impossibility or tedium in my game "A Stranger, Unregarded."

Of course opinions vary. For example, I am happy to use "mazes" (anything where east might end up elsewhere) that the user has to map to solve. Others might find that tedious. But tradition!


How you write your adventure and how easy or hard you make it is up to you. But if it wasn't challenging, you wouldn't really want to play it. It must exercise 'the little grey cells' as Hercule Poirot said.
Subtle clues for digging might include the description 'the ground has recently been disturbed' or 'you find yourself in a field', especially if you come across a shovel or other farm related digging equipment..., similarly you are not going to leave a door open or unlock when you enter a house if a horde of ogres are on the rampage.
If the author has included some bones at a location, these should be examined, if they have also included a church or graveyard location in their game, do the bones need a proper burial...
Always look around the location that you are stuck in, maybe there is a clue you've missed nearby to help you move forward, a room flooded with water, or where water is flowing might simply need a tap to be turned off, or a drain to be opened...
A good writer will always put clues in the description or ways to solve the problem in locations near by, but keys, lamps, candles, matches, these things are essential puzzle solving/ equipment, and should be taken whenever they are found.


How much help should a player get:
Doors - one time use. If there is a door in my game, it's just an obstacle. I never have any unlocked, openable doors. To open a door, you basically have to have accomplished something first. Once a door is open, I remove it from the game.

Readables: If it's something that is essential to have in your inventory and they type read [object], I always add it to the inventory for them and then print what is read. If it's an item that cannot be picked up, I obviously don't add it to inventory, but I do make a script if they try and take it (for example... a carving on a stone wall).

You discovered something: I have a lot of objects that show up after a player examines (looks at) an object listed in the room. I find it as a bit of a reward for a player. It also makes the game more of an exploration than a block of texts. Example, in my tutorial "game", I have a chef NPC. You talk to the chef and she wants to make a cake but she's far too busy to get the ingredients herself. So, the player has to "look at" or "search" the shelves to make the ingredients visible. Far better, in my opinion, than just having the ingredients lying around somewhere.

How realistic should an adventure be: I only take realism into account (with the situations you are talking about) if I want to make it part of a puzzle. Any other way, I would find it to be just annoying (for/as the player).

Lost in the woods: In Xanadu 1, I had a portion of woods where I turned the map off. I did this because I wanted it to feel like a maze and I wanted to reward a player who old-school pencil and papered it. In Xanadu 3 (WIP), I have a block of rooms where I print random descriptions from a list in the rooms that are "non-essential". I did NOT have situations where you could do U-turns or taken random places on the same "exit". That sucks! I would say there are some exceptions like the "echo room" in Zork... or any other game where the room exits themselves are part of a larger puzzle.

Wasting the players time:
Biggest no-no of any text adventure game. This includes insta-deaths. There are MANY good ways around this, all of which would make the player go... "Oops. That was my fault." Examples would include multiple, strong warning about the danger of a certain action before they make it, suggestions like "maybe you should think about saving here", making an object "undroppable" (one of my favorite things to do - just print a message like "I don't think that object has served it's purpose yet. You hold on to it).

Haven't got a clue:
My biggest mistake in Xanadu 1 (my first game). It was unintentionally harder than I thought when writing it. The good side is that if people are playing it and WANT to complete it (because the author took time to make it a good game) then they will likely ask questions on the forum or the game comment section. I enjoy it when authors do that. It makes the game more personable. At some point I intend on writing a clues section for X1 as I did for X2. Games should NOT be too easy. In my opinions, those are no fun. They need to be challenging but not impossible. It's not too much work to add a simple hint system. Hell, you could make it one text block that pops-up and lists solutions for common problems. There are way better ways to do this than just mentioned, but, point is... try to avoid the roadblock at all costs.


Thanks Watcher55, Doctor Agon, XanMag as well as ForgeWright.

It was interesting to read your comments and suggestions.
It looks like clues are needed a lot in adventures. I guess the hardest part is in finding a way to give the player a clue without making the problem too easy to solve.

There seems to be two types og adventures:

  1. Puzzle adventures
    There are very little descriptions for the locations and objects and you ususally need to solve a puzzel before moving on to the next location.

  2. Novel Story adventures
    These read like a book with more detail descriptions like those used in Infocom adventures. Colour, smell, sound, etc is often used in the descriptions.

I'm hoping to write a Novel Story type adventure where the descriptions can be entertaining to read.
Infocom type adventures should be possible in Quest where objects become part of the room description and the objects description can change during the game.

What I like in Text Adventures is discovery and mystery. What is behind a door? what happens if I push a button? an interesting creature in the adventure.

Brian


The style of navigation varies and depends on the feel you want but better to stick to that style from beginning to end once you choose it. puzzles should stump the player in my opinion so they earn the payoff when they solve it - even to the point of giving up but make it clear that you will help them if they get stuck and message you. but they should always kick themselves for not figuring it out rather than blame your game. I reckon (I could be wrong) that if your puzzles have a degree of difficulty many people will find them challenging because they have to step into your head and that will not be so intuitive.


Hi mick.

One possible way to solve a puzzle in a text adventure is to think like the programmer that has written the adventure and think how he would provide ways to solve the puzzle. It does not always work as there are times when you don't have an object needed to solve the puzzle (no knife to dig into the dirt to find something or not wearing climbing shoes to climb a steep hill). Also some adventures have objects that have nothing to do with winning the adventure, maybe it adds to the difficulty level to make the player try harder to see how something like a writing desk fits in with the current adventure.

I have come across text adventures that offer a clue if you type in the word "clue" but I think you might lose a few points off your score.


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