Is "Guess-the-Verb" a valid complaint?

In reviews of I.F. games, one often sees "guess the verb" mentioned as a weakness or fault of puzzle-oriented text adventures. And it might very well be a major flaw in a game for which the author has not put in reasonable synonyms or alternate ways of solving a puzzle that would be intuitive.

I recently read a critique of Larry Horsfield's game Return to Castle Coris (not a Quest game, but he makes rather good text adventures available on ADRIFT). The reviewer complained that he could not attract the attention of an eagle in a desert puzzle part of the game, yet the player had not attempted a number of intuitive command options that would have worked, but simply looked at the walk-through when the eagle did not immediately notice him, and then simply abandoned the game, thinking he never would have thought of the suggested action from the walk-through. In a reply thread, he admitted to not even perusing the basic introductory instructions, which would have easily prevented other complaints about L BEHIND not working, as it would in Inform.

In Larry Horsfield's defense, I think people nowadays are too quick to toss out the "guess-the-verb" complaint without making a good faith effort -- at least it seems so in this case when there were several sensible ways to get the eagle's attention.

I fear there is a growing preference for I.F. games to consist merely of using reflex commands (or simply clicking on links) to generate the next chunk of text so as to skim through the story without really thinking through the puzzles. It seems this kind of player does not actually enjoy puzzles at all, if they can't be bothered to try a few commands (even generic ones would have worked, if he had just thought to try them) before moving on to the next game in the IFComp list and leaving a negative review.

Also, complaining about L BEHIND not working even if it works in Inform is an invalid complaint, esp. when the reviewer admits not reading the HINTS or the initial instructions. That is why they author bothered to put them there -- so that you will know how this particular game works.

It seems unfair to leave negative reviews if you don't take the trouble to get acquainted with the game. There are any number of reasons to check the instructions first -- game engine standards, exigencies of the game itself and how the created world might limit the parser based on the other puzzles. You must take the clues provided, take as much help as the author is trying to give, if you really want to judge the game fairly -- and truly enjoy this kind of text adventure.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?


Hello.


In reviews of I.F. games, one often sees the phrase "guess the verb" mentioned as a typical weakness or fault of puzzle-oriented text adventures.

My theory is pretty much your theory, but I think people expect a new text adventure to have all the same commands as the other text adventures they have previously played. This would mean each player has a different idea of which commands should be understood, and anything different would be a "guess the verb" type game to said notable.

Personally, I only think this nasty thought about a game if there is only one time in a game when I need to use some strange command which is never even understood by the same parser in any other scene in that same game. ...and that's only if the author doesn't provide at least one good hint.


As far as reading instructions goes, I'm guilty of never reading them before starting a game. I can usually make it fine without instructions, but, once in a blue moon, I might get stuck at the beginning of a game which is well-written and go check the instructions out to see if they are actually helpful -- even though I have taken the time to write instructions for my own games before and therefore understand the work put into them as well as how helpful they can sometimes be.


I fear there is a growing notion of interactive fiction as simply using reflex commands (or simply clicking on links) to generate the next chunk of text so as to skim through the story without really thinking through the puzzles.

No need to fear this. Just accept it. (I had to accept it not too long ago. I'm not being mean or anything. I just call 'em like I see 'em.)

I'm pretty sure most people are playing IF on their phones nowadays. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't seriously play a text adventure unless I'm in a room with no distractions and I've got an actual keyboard.

To be fair, though, lots of people don't own a computer nowadays, and their phone is the only thing they can use to play. The links do make the games somewhat tolerable on a phone, I guess, but it does (like you say) make the whole thing sort of automated.

Also, the CYOA games seem to be more popular than parsers recently -- which further proves that your fear has already become our reality.

...but times change. So, maybe parser games will rise again one day soon!


Yes, thank you! You are confirming the trends I was noticing. Well, I suppose these are to be expected. CYOA games can be good, but text adventures are much more satisfying.

I suppose it's also natural that instructions are neglected since people want to plunge right in and try a game on its own terms. But I usually at least skim over them, so I don't suffer needlessly. Also, they sometimes offer another little layer of "flavor" that gives an idea of the kind of author you are working with, which to me gives another clue about whether I might enjoy the game or not, as I'm trying it out.

I am the same way -- I can only seriously get into a game at a desk with a keyboard. And some games require an emulator, so I need my computer. (Some old Apple text adventures like Buccaneer! or Larry Horsfield's excellent Alaric Blackmoon series, although the latter can be played online with the ADRIFT ports.)

Cell phones are here to stay, apparently, but maybe some day voice commands can be integrated into text adventures, so that players don't have to try typing on a tiny phone keypad.

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think you have done some reviewing/copy-editing for mrangel's publications? I just ordered Inside the Box in paperback and am eager to read his fiction!


Personally, I turn the text input off. My nostalgia for text games is the kind with buttons, links and commands, not typing in commands until something works. As a result, that's what I strive to emulate in my own works. A half-decent UI, visual cues to help keep the player engaged (healthbars sliding down after taking a hit, icons for status effects popping up, etc).


To each his own. I am the exact opposite of Pykrete. In my newer games I have turned off the click link for action. My thought... I don’t want to go to the trouble of writing clever quips and puzzles if players are just going to breeze over it and clicky-click everything to move forward. To me, it’s akin to writing a novel and the reader purchasing the cliff notes (SUCK IT CLIFF NOTES READERS!). I think my games are either loved or hated because of this so I must take the bad reviews (which typically come from those that want to point click and go go go) with the good ones (readers who like to read and solve and want a challenge, albeit sometimes frustrating). Bottom line, I write my games the way I like to play them - text parser only please!

Either way, great games (and shitty one alike) can be made in both formats. My problem is finding good games that suit my taste.


My problem is finding good games that suit my taste.

My ex-wife used to say the same thing all the time!


I hear what you guys are saying. I actually wrote 2 games that are click-only, no typing at all, just to see if I could still make decent puzzles based on scenarios and not words. "Treehouse Champion" is more of a lark, almost a turn-based RPG video game that pits vintage 80s action figures against each other.

But its sequel, "Castle Champion," is truly an attempt to make a text adventure that you traverse only by clicking links and using the object/inventory boxes in the margin, etc. It has a small underground labyrinth and several intriguing puzzles that even involve music (audible to the player) to revive the heroes. I was hoping those games would be playable on cell phones, but the photos are too large for that; I think they work on tablets okay.

But for the genre of the "text adventure" proper, I think a certain amount of wordsmithy is part of the pleasure, and that folks who disagree may be overextending the complaint of "guess the verb" for any situation in which a game actually makes you do some thinking with words. My point -- those who don't even like a certain genre may not be the best judges of it.


“ I was hoping those games would be playable on cell phones”

And audio playing over cell phones is a mess!!


Maybe it would help my case to point out that I'm working on something more akin to an RPG? I have a turn-based combat system with multiple things the player can do each turn other than simply attacking, including a lot of special attacks which can be temporarily (attached to weaponry) or permanently (quest/trial rewards) unlocked. Enemy attacks will sometimes hint if they're going to do something major - something the player should interrupt with damage, or prepare to try and mitigate somehow with dodging or defending.

Rampantly clicking through will almost certainly result in failure, unless dealing with enemies far below their level. Quests have choices, dialogue can permanently affect the opinions of NPCs towards the protagonist... I guess what I'm getting at is that so long as the player feels compelled to read your text - say, for example, if there's pertinent information in there hinting towards best outcomes - then they will.

And if they still don't; there's no sense worrying about the minority of strange fellows who try and speedrun interactive fiction first-time through.

Do you prefer text input? Great! Would you rather do without it? Great! They're both valid forms of creation and preference, and I for one think it's cool that the genre of interactive fiction can split like that. Who knows, maybe it'll split further somewhere down the line.


Do you prefer text input? Great! Would you rather do without it? Great! They're both valid forms of creation and preference, and I for one think it's cool that the genre of interactive fiction can split like that.

I second this.


And audio playing over cell phones is a mess!!

I second this, too.


Maybe it depends on your first computer.

My first computer was a Tandy Color Computer 2. It spoke a BASIC dialect, but not the basic BASIC. It spoke Tandy's "Extended Color BASIC".

Here's the first program I ever ran (and by "ran", I mean I read it in the Radio Shack: Getting Started with Extended Color BASIC book, typed it in, and entered RUN):

1 '*** IN-OUT ***
2 '
5 PMODE 3,1
10 PCLS3
15 SCREEN 1,0
20 FOR I = 3 TO 7
25 FOR J = 2 TO 6
30 FOR S = 0 TO 3
35 FOR R = 0 TO 3
40 COLOR R,S
45 A=0:B=255:C=0:D=191
50 LINE (A,C)-(B,D),PSET,B
55 A=A+J:B=B-J:C=C+I:D=D-I
60 IF A<255 AND C<191 THEN 50
65 NEXT R
70 NEXT S
75 NEXT J,I
80 GOTO 30
SCREENSHOT

in-out Peek 2021-04-12 07-04


If anyone wants to play with a Tandy Color Computer 2 emulator, I found one that runs in the browser (and it has all the games "attached"):

https://www.haplessgenius.com/mocha/


Anyway, yeah... My first text adventure was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky -- published by INFOCOM.

SCREENSHOT

h2g2-intro Peek 2021-04-12 14-10


It is a hard [EXPLETIVE DELETED]! I started playing on a Thursday in 1985, and I finally beat it in 2015. Sure, I took a lot of breaks in-between, but the Hitchhiker's game is zarkin' hard!

...and it is totally "guess the verb", especially if you're not playing the Solid Gold release.

It's also on most Greatest Text Adventures of All Time lists, and usually in the top 5.

Oh, and you can play the Inform port of it on this very site:
https://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/3cbedqimquselmanehhzxg/the-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy

If I'm going to play it online, I prefer this version on the BBC's site, though:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1g84m0sXpnNCv84GpN2PLZG/the-game-30th-anniversary-edition


I have memories of seeing older kids play MegaMan and Metroid on the NES when I was very young (somewhere's around 5 or 6, I think), and I played Gauntlet on my cousin's computer at about that time (god bless unlimited continues). Then, my grandpa got me a used CollecoVision with the Atari adapter and a ton of games. My next exposure to videogames was around January of 1991, when I turned 9. Around the same time, I got a shiny new NES and a used Apple2e. That was it for a while. So, during the same period of time, I got my first exposures to playing Final Fantasy, Super Mario 3, and Shadowgate on the NES, and I was learning how to play Sherwood Forest, Nine Princes In Amber, and Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego.

I enjoy a pretty wide variety of games at this point. And you know what I miss? Freakin' instruction manuals! The first thing I used to do, when I got a new game, was open it up and read that manual cover to cover. They had cool custom artwork, the premise of the story (so you didn't need to sit through that once you actually started playing), basic instructions (so you didn't have to play Tutorial-Land for the first three-quarters of the game), and hints on how to get started (so you weren't just standing on a cliff wondering where to go). Games just don't have any manuals at all anymore, so I'm not surprised there's more and more people who don't read them when they're offered. I think it's a sadly lost piece of the experience.

In conclusion, if someone is kind enough to provide me with instructions, I read them, and I enjoy it. I consider them a part of the game. So, yes, I'd say if someone's complaint could have been solved by reading something that was provided as part of a text adventure, it's their own silly fault if they can't figure out how to phrase an action. "Guess the verb" should only be invoked when the necessary phrasing is very specific and unnatural. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea what "L BEHIND" even is (sounds like "god made bananas that way on purpose" propaganda to me), but it's certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when I think, "how do I get a bird to notice me?"

Dag-blern kids today can't appreciate the simple things no more, consarn it!


And you know what I miss? Freakin' instruction manuals! The first thing I used to do, when I got a new game, was open it up and read that manual cover to cover. They had cool custom artwork, the premise of the story (so you didn't need to sit through that once you actually started playing), basic instructions (so you didn't have to play Tutorial-Land for the first three-quarters of the game), and hints on how to get started (so you weren't just standing on a cliff wondering where to go). Games just don't have any manuals at all anymore, so I'm not surprised there's more and more people who don't read them when they're offered. I think it's a sadly lost piece of the experience.

Exactly.

As I said previously, I am guilty of never reading them before starting recent games, but that's due to the lack of them.

Want to see something really cool? https://archive.org/details/infocomcabinet

If you like art, reading, and/or Infocom, don't click on that unless you don't have any plans for the next few hours.

Also, most of the Infocom manuals are here: http://infodoc.plover.net/manuals/index.html

Some Infocom games used the manual for a form of copyright protection. Like The Lurking Horror, where you need a username and a password to log into an in-game PC at the beginning.

Heck, Leather Goddesses of Phobos has a comic book (in thrilling 3-D!) in the manual that you need to read in order to know how to traverse the catacombs.

I've gotten sidetracked . . . sort of.

...but, while on the subject, Infocom-heads should also check this out: https://textadventures.co.uk/forum/design/topic/1fpfsggahe67c9eapnsbvq/infocom-source-code-and-a-compiler-available-online


"Guess the verb" should only be invoked when the necessary phrasing is very specific and unnatural.

This perfectly sums up what I was originally attempting to say.

Well said! Hear, hear!


I used to play Adventure International games - they were guess the verbs. Their local shop was a couple of miles from the house so every so often I'd pick one up. In college, teams of four people would borrow my computer and see how far they could get in their adventures - it was a race to the end. Lots of fun (back then).

For the record, all this was on my original Atari 800. Loved that box.


Heck, Leather Goddesses of Phobos has a comic book (in thrilling 3-D!) in the manual that you need to read in order to know how to traverse the catacombs.

Ha! I learned something today! I should enter LEWD at the start of every text adventure!


Ha! I learned something today!

And learning is half the battle.

Wait... I don't think that's right.


I should enter LEWD at the start of every text adventure!

I tried that in Zork once. You don't even want to know how many leaves there are in LEWD mode!!! (This is a joke. Don't waste your time, kids!)


I used to play Adventure International games - they were guess the verbs.

Never heard of these. I bet I can find at least one of them online. Sounds like a good side-mission!


That's Scott Adams (not the one who writes DILBERT).
Have a look on the IF Archive. Start at this link.

Between Infocom & Scott Adams, it looks like you are going to be busy.


Oh!

I've played all the Scott Adams adventures. I just don't remember noticing anything that said "Adventure International". Hehehe. Makes sense. Scott Adams : Adventureland : Adventure International.

I've played all the Infocom stuff, too. (Took 40 years, but I finally played them all.)


Anybody want to play a "Guess the Verb" Infocom game?

https://iplayif.com/?story=https://eblong.com/infocom/gamefiles/nordandbert-r20-s870722.z4

I'm not saying it's fun (or good), by the way. It is actually on my Least Favorite Infocom Games list.


By the way, Parchment is a web runner for Z-code games.

https://iplayif.com/

You can play any Z-machine game on that site. You just have to add on to the url, like https://iplayif.com/?story=

Also, eblong has a site with links to all the Infocom games in Z-code format.

https://eblong.com/infocom/#the-collection

Nord & Bert is one of the games.

https://eblong.com/infocom/gamefiles/nordandbert-r20-s870722.z4

So, putting it all together: https://iplayif.com/?story=https://eblong.com/infocom/gamefiles/nordandbert-r20-s870722.z4


How about I do that same thing with a good game?

Leather Goddesses of Phobos

https://iplayif.com/?story=https://eblong.com/infocom/gamefiles/leathergoddesses-r59-s860730.z3

Don't forget to enter lewd!

Also, the invisiclues:

https://iplayif.com/?story=https://eblong.com/infocom/gamefiles/leathergoddesses-invclues-r4-s880405.z5


A Note on Saving on Parchment

Saving is an issue.

When you save, your URL will change. You want to copy that URL and save it in a text editor. To load your save, simply paste your URL and go.

This is sort of how Zork behaves when you play it on this site (the textadventures site).

https://textadventures.co.uk/forum/general/topic/bzmfneynuuuc4wuc-hhzbq/how-to-save-when-playing-zork-on-this-site


@KV...

You forgot the XanMag Xanadu Magoo games... best games never played!


You forgot the XanMag Xanadu Magoo games... best games never played!

Would you put Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back on a list as a series before Return of the Jedi was released?


(Don't worry, everyone. I'm just motivating XM. We want X3!)


With regards to "guess the verb", I would suggest the audience has changed massively.

Back in the day, people paid a fair chunk of money for their text adventure, and so expected to get many hours out of it. That would be many hours of trying to guess the verb, many hours of navigating mazes, many hours of going back to the start to find that item that you missed right at the beginning.

People nowadays do not want that and do not expect that. They expect to be able to play the game in a few hours with minimal frustration - and in part they expect that because today most games are like that. If a game is too hard, they will move on to another.

Do you prefer text input? Great! Would you rather do without it? Great! They're both valid forms of creation and preference, and I for one think it's cool that the genre of interactive fiction can split like that.

Although I have not released much, I do start to write a lot of games, and some I create with text input, and some without. It makes quite a difference to the game, and therefore, for me, the nature of the game I am writing dictates how the player will interact.


^Truth


Although I have not released much, I do start to write a lot of games

I'm glad I'm not the only one.


Ugh, god, same. At least I've been focused on this on without starting anything else for over a year now!


For me, as a non-native English speaker, it's often the case that I can't find the words that the developer comes up with. It gets even more annoying when then not all the right commands are supported. Why is it right to give the dog the meat but not to use it with the dog? And if you think about it further, you come to the current realization that you only need a few words for an adventure game. Actually, you would need only one verb: "use".


For me, as a non-native English speaker, it's often the case that I can't find the words that the developer comes up with. It gets even more annoying when then not all the right commands are supported. Why is it right to give the dog the meat but not to use it with the dog? And if you think about it further, you come to the current realization that you only need a few words for an adventure game. Actually, you would need only one verb: "use".

If everything can be done with "use", you could brute-force a solution just by using every item you have on the problem. For me, I'd rather try to work out what to do – although having the right idea and not knowing the word is still a pain.

In one of my games, a remake of the first computer game I ever beat, I allowed both. So "give fish to dolphin" is the same as "feed dolphin" (how the original did it; all commands are 'verb noun'). But I did wonder if that would make it too easy to complete without thinking.


If everything can be done with "use", you could brute-force a solution just by using every item you have on the problem.

But it's exactly the same when you search for the right words. You try all possible words until hopefully one fits. This is not fun.

So "give fish to dolphin" is the same as "feed dolphin" (how the original did it; all commands are 'verb noun'). But I did wonder if that would make it too easy to complete without thinking.

Why should that be too easy? Personally, I would be so upset that either "feed dolphin" or "use fish with dolphin" or "give fish to dolphin" would not work that I would immediately quit the game and forget about it. You can see that I don't like parser adventure anymore and I changed my game completely to mouse control even in Quest. But that is of course a matter of opinion. :-)

A good puzzle doesn't have to be hard, a good puzzle doesn't need a lot of words. A good puzzle has to trigger the aaahhh effect in me.


As a writer of pretty complex puzzles in my games, I am sure I offend a lot of the “Pertex’s” out there but I do TRY to think like the gamer and accommodate for every logical input they might try. So... feed dolphin, feed fish to dolphin, use fish on dolphin, give fish to dolphin, feed dolphin [the] fish, etc would all work. It’s a pain in the ass to write this way but I too get offended by trying something that should have worked only to find that I use the wrong word/phrasing. But, I do still cling to the nuances of proper grammar and “use fish on dolphin” just feels wrong. I do, in some cases get all smart-assery when I write some responses.
-You try to use the fish on the dolphin but the dolphin, being raised properly by loving parents, avoids your awkward attempts at fish use and says, “can you just type feed fish to dolphin? You’re kind of embarrassing yourself.”


While I sympathize with language barrier issues, and I don't know how well things like this translate, it just feels like it goes against the traditional nature of these games to USE everything. I would probably have USE FISH ON DOLPHIN do something like:
"You smack the dolphin with the fish, but it only seems annoyed."

What if I was trying to award a helpful NPC by knighting him? USE SWORD ON SQUIRE JOHN could just as easily knight him or kill him.

If I'm having a rough day with the kids, and my wife says USE this MILKSHAKE on OUR SON, I could assume she wants me to give it to the kid, or I could drink it myself, to help relieve my stress from dealing with the kid. And she would not be impressed.

If the game is well made, the player shouldn't need to guess at the exact phrasing, but they should need to express a specific intent. It seems useful to USE, because it accounts for a lot of different things, but that's also what's wrong with it; it could mean almost anything.


Okay... I admit it, this post got WAY out of hand...
I just wanted to expand a little on an earlier thought, but it ended up turning into a whole little short story/game summary that ends with making a point about verb choices. So, I wrapped it all up in a details tag. Just click on the title to expand it. Anyway, presented for your enjoyment, here is the parable of:

A Desperate Dolphin
OR
To USE or not to USE, Part 1
(Part 2 is about the squire that wants to be a knight. Who knows, maybe I'll write that one someday as well... or not)
You are out taking a morning walk, along the beach near your home, as you often like to do. At the end of the beach, the path turns down a hill toward the recently refurbished

"Super Fancy Modern Aquarium, now with robots!"

As you approach the end of the beach, you hear an odd screeching sound. Looking over, you see the back of the aquarium, where it meets the ocean. Just outside the small wall of an aquatic enclosure, a dolphin seems to be swimming in circles and trying to look into the enclosure. The dolphin seems rather desperate about something.

Taking a closer look at the enclosure, you see that a much smaller dolphin is inside the wall. The dolphin's child must have somehow gotten into the enclosure, and can't figure out how to escape!

Just as you begin to think, "well, I'm sure the employees will deal with it," you remember that today is Saturday, and the "fancy" new aquarium is not open on weekends. That poor dolphin could be trapped all weekend. You have to do something! So, you set your mind to somehow break into the aquarium and free the baby dolphin, but how?

"Wait a minute!" you think to yourself, "the wall isn't that high. Why doesn't the baby just jump over it? Or the mother jump into it? Hmm, well, that seems normal to me, but maybe that's something only trained dolphins would think of..." As you continue to meditate on that thought, you head toward the front of the aquarium.

Quickly determining you won't get in the front doors, you check the alley along the side the aquarium. Fortunately, there's a side gate you can climb over! Unfortunately, it is guarded by a large angry looking dog. Having seen one too many 80's movies (or perhaps just enough!), you go to the pharmacy and buy some tranquilizers, then to the grocery store to buy a big steak. You stuff the tranquilizers into the steak, and FEED the STEAK to the DOG. The dog furiously gobbles up the steak. Success! A few moments later, it's sleeping like a lamb, and you climb over the gate into the aquarium grounds.

Along the way, you encounter many obstacles and potential deaths, as the "Super Fancy Modern Aquarium" does indeed have robots, guard robots, lethal guard robots! There are also various types of doors and locks, including automatic drop gates and magnetic key cards. Eventually, you find the door leading out to the outdoor aquatic enclosure. You can see the poor baby dolphin and it's mother trying to reach each other. Alas! Another locked door! At least this one is just a regular key, but where is it?

As you continue to explore the surprisingly dangerous aquarium, you find a tank marked "SAMUEL." Inside the tank is a rather handsome looking octopus. He seems quite happy with himself. Then you notice the source of his joy: he is clinging to a brightly colored key-chain with words "OUTDOOR ENCLOSURE" written on it! (It must be water-proof ink.)

Having collected and used a variety of keys already, most of which you no longer need, you try offering a few to Samuel in trade. Sadly, none of them seem to appeal to him more than the one he's got. Fiddlesticks!

You explore some more, narrowly escaping death from a particularly mean spirited robot who only shouts "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" Eventually, you find yourself in the gift shop. They have all kinds of neat stuff, like glasses with whales on them, plastic starfish, and stuffed dolphins. You pick up a stuffed dolphin and hold it, sadly, "will I ever be able to rescue that poor baby dolphin?"

As you lament your circumstances, you notice they have personalized key-chains, with names on them. In fact, they have some that say "Samuel!" You steal a "Samuel" key-chain and rush back to the octopus tank, shouting down the annoying robot guards, "Out of the way, you Chopping Mall rejects!"

You get back to Samuel's tank and call out his name, to see if he recognizes it, and sure enough, he turns to look at you. Nervously, you approach the tank, and show him the "Samuel" key-chain, but can an octopus read? Well, perhaps not, as Samuel just seems to look back and forth at you and the key-chain. "It says 'Samuel' on it," you tell him. Now, he's excited! He throws the key to the outdoor enclosure out onto the floor, reaches a tentacle right up out of his tank, and snatches the "Samuel" key-chain away from you. He then sits back down, happily admiring his very own personalized key-chain. (You try very hard not to consider the possibility that you could have told anything had his name on it, and he wouldn't have known the difference.)

You pick the key, rush to the outdoor enclosure, and finally, you are there, with the baby dolphin. Now, how are you going to get this baby dolphin to jump over that wall? Looking around, you notice a of fish that was carelessly left out... for some reason (Hey, don't look a gift horse in the mouth! I could have made you fight another robot for it!). You pick up the bucket, and now have a limitless supply of fresh (dead) fish.

NOW, there are two ways this exciting adventure could end, with USE, or without USE. Let's look at without USE first. The text in bold is what the player enters into the parser.

The Big Ending (without "USE")

The baby dolphin watches you carefully. Or is it staring at the bucket of fish?
USE FISH ON DOLPHIN
Use how? Sorry, you'll have to be more specific.
The baby dolphin watches you carefully...
LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH
You try to lead the baby dolphin toward the wall, but it doesn't seem to trust you.
The baby dolphin watches you carefully...
FEED FISH TO DOLPHIN
As you approach the baby dolphin, it retreats away from you.
The baby dolphin watches you carefully...
TOSS FISH TO DOLPHIN
The baby dolphin catches the fish right out of the air!
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
It swims right up to the side of the water and opens its mouth.
The baby dolphin is beginning to trust you...
LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH
The baby dolphin sees you walk away with the fish and looks dejected.
The baby dolphin is beginning to trust you...
FEED FISH TO DOLPHIN
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
The baby dolphin seems to trust you a little more...
FEED FISH TO DOLPHIN
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
You and the baby dolphin are now the best of friends!
LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH

Trusting that you will give it the fish eventually, the baby dolphin begins to follow you along the edge of the tank. Picking up speed, you run toward the wall, and the baby dolphin keeps pace with you, all the while keeping its eyes trained on the fish. Just as you are about to reach the wall, you throw the fish into the air and over the wall. The baby dolphin jumps after it, up over the wall and out of the enclosure to the open waters! It happily eats up the fish, as its mother rushes to its side, reunited at last. Congratulations! You freed the baby dolphin!

The Big Ending (with "USE")

The baby dolphin watches you carefully. Or is it staring at the bucket of fish?
USE FISH ON DOLPHIN
You toss a fish to the baby dolphin, and it catches the fish right out of the air!
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
The baby dolphin is beginning to trust you...
USE FISH ON DOLPHIN
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
The baby dolphin seems to trust you a little more...
USE FISH ON DOLPHIN
The baby dolphin happily eats up the fish.
You and the baby dolphin are now the best of friends!
USE FISH ON DOLPHIN

Trusting that you will give it the fish eventually, the baby dolphin begins to follow you along the edge of the tank. Picking up speed, you run toward the wall, and the baby dolphin keeps pace with you, all the while keeping it's eyes trained on the fish. Just as you are about to reach the wall, you throw the fish into the air and over the wall. The baby dolphin jumps after it, up over the wall and out of the enclosure to the open waters! It happily eats up the fish, as its mother rushes to its side, reunited at last. Congratulations! You freed the baby dolphin!

So, after a harrowing journey involving shopping trips, an angry dog, security gates, killer robots, and a self-interested octopus, which ending is more satisfying? The one where you had to puzzle out to TOSS a fish first, then FEED a couple more fish, then LEAD the dolphin with the fish, or the one where you typed "USE FISH ON DOLPHIN" four times in a row?


Honestly, I would never have thought of using "LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH" in any language. I'm pretty sure I would have tried the passage once or twice and then looked for a new game.


Honestly, I would never have thought of using "LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH" in any language.

Neither would I.

If I thought I needed to lure the dolphin towards me, I'd probably try SHOW FISH TO DOLPHIN.

Now, I'm not being mean when I say this, but I think LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH would actually be a solid "guess the verb" complaint. Unless there's a previous section of the game where you somehow learn to use a LEAD something WITH something command.

...but I would also say that USE FISH ON DOLPHIN was a "guess the verb" scenario. Unless I knew it was a Quest game and that USE was used quite frequently. (I don't like the USE command.)

So, yeah... If there was a big scene which could not be missed in which the game clearly informed the player that LEAD was a command and how to use it, I would probably prefer the "without USE" version.

...but I am a native English speaker, and this site has many, many players like Pertex who can use USE to play and enjoy games they normally couldn't play.

Plus, USE is like a Quest thing. I talk smack about it occasionally, but I think I only get away with that because everyone here knows I'm crazy. [MANIACAL LAUGH]


Using USE (in Quest)

When I'm authoring a Quest game, I usually code the commands as I would in Inform, but I also try to always add at least a response (hopefully humorous) for anything a player might try to USE. Sometimes, USE actually does something, but usually it either (A) gives a hint concerning how to be more specific or (B) makes fun of the player for trying to use USE in such a manner.


EDIT

For the record, I'm pretty sure TG was simply throwing a made-up example out there, and there's probably not really a game with the command LEAD DOLPHIN WITH FISH.

If there is such a game, that's okay, too. No judgment.

Criticism? Yes, but no judgment.


There was a game I typed in from The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures (which I still have) called Lost Dutchman's Gold where you had to LEAD MULE in order to move. It was not very well clued if at all and it was only because I had typed it in that I remembered.
A bit different from LEADING a DOLPHIN though.


LOL, no, that game idea was purely hypothetical, based on the dolphin mentioned before. I would agree that some clue in to the LEAD command would be needed in that particular case, but I guess part of the problem is that people think about things differently. Showing the dolphin the fish is the more direct specific action, but I was thinking, "adventurers lead animals around with food all the time in stories, so, obviously, right?" Well, one man's "obvious" is another man's "what were you thinking when you wrote this?!"
Seriously, though, how specific or general a term is, is another important part of writing a TA well, and in retrospect, "lead" is too general in scope.


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