Five easy improvements to your game

Here's a list of five easy things to do to give that final polish to your IF game. These are all things that many players come to expect from a well-made game and experience has shown that a lack of these basic things suggests a lack of overall quality as well.

1. Proofread the intro

Naturally you should proofread and have others proofread the entire game, but pay special attention to the intro text and the room description of the first room. Go through the text twice, then twice more, then with proofreading software, then let someone else proofread it. With every word you're not 100 % sure how to spell it, check it with a dictionary.

Players are willing to forgive occasional typos and stray punctuation the further in the game they are, but when they see one right as the game starts they go "oh, it's one of those games again" and it takes a lot of effort to win back their confidence.

2. Add a description of the player character

There's nothing that says low quality louder than "As good-looking as ever" or "You look the same as usual." Even if you have designed your player character to be AFGNCAAP you should have something to say about the main character of your story.

You don't have to spend hours fine-tuning the player character's description. Anything is better than the library default, even if it's just "You're ok."

At this point I would also like to add that having a witty twist of the default message, like "Not as good-looking as ever" or similar, has been done about ten million times already and is not witty anymore. The same goes with going for irony or trying to emphasize the anonymous nature of the player character by leaving the default message as it is on purpose -- it just won't work, and players won't get it.

3. Add a response to ABOUT

The players often want to know more about the game and its author. ABOUT could contain a summary of available in-game instructions and hints, credits, mention about other included files and feelies, game's home page and the author's email address. Making INFO and HELP synonyms to ABOUT is also a good idea (unless HELP is used to invoke a hint system.)

4. Have VERBOSE on by default

VERBOSE means that all room descriptions are fully shown every time the player enters a room, even when they have seen the description before. Brief mode in contrast shows the descriptions only for the first time the player enters the room and after that only when the player types LOOK.

This is possibly the controversial one of this list, but most players I know of turn long room descriptions on as soon as they see that they aren't already. I don't know of anyone who would switch to brief descriptions if verbose is enabled by default.

Edit: The new Inform 7 release (6E59) has made VERBOSE mode the default and removed scenery from GET ALL, so thankfully future I7 games won't suffer from those faults.

The game can be set to verbose mode in Inform 7 with this line:

Use full-length room descriptions.

TADS has verbose mode on by default. I don't know why Inform insists on preferring brief room descriptions; possibly because of historical reasons.

5. Remove scenery from GET ALL

In Inform when the player types GET ALL (or any other verb that supports multiple nouns) the game interprets it as an attempt to pick up absolutely everything in the location, including scenery, people and things fixed in place. It's a well known trick to type GET ALL to see all the objects that are implemented in the room and force the game to reveal its secrets.

These lines remove abovementioned things from GET ALL in Inform 7: (fixed in 6E59)

Rule for deciding whether all includes scenery: it does not.
Rule for deciding whether all includes people: it does not.
Rule for deciding whether all includes fixed in place things: it does not. [this actually covers the previous rules as well]

(This is another thing that TADS's library handles better by default.)

One thought on “Five easy improvements to your game

  1. Bullseye. Indeed, these are all easy fixes to almost any IF game and they're all certainly worth doing. Inform 7 games seem to be especially vulnerable to GET ALL; I noticed that rather quickly.

    Your call for turning VERBOSE on right away reminds me of the end of -- dated 1997, so it's hardly a new idea, and shouldn't be that controversial.

    For what it's worth, I can think of two reasons to turn BRIEF mode on in a game. One, you're replaying a game you know really well, and you're just trying to reach a particular point as quickly as possible. Two, you've just entered a maze. In BRIEF mode, it's more obvious that you've entered a completely new room instead of one you've already visited.

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