This is the first format I put together. It has three paragraphs in the main text area to the left, and some text based command buttons on the right. I figure it would replace the whole three paragraphs each time the player did something, so each turn it would be fresh text with no history. The trouble there is that little changes might be easy to miss. I expect that’ll be a problem for all the formats though.
This format would be particularly good for long storylike actions with little player input. Then it would be more like a choose your own adventure rather than a world represented in text. I like this format but I don’t think it’s the right one for this project.
This is the second text format I’ve tried. It’s a lot more complex than the previous one. I did it up in Flash. It’s made of four textField objects. The two on the left are wider than the ones on the right. In the upper right you’ve got your location, and the static objects. In the upper left you’ve got your senses, feelings, and condition, as well as the time of day. The bottom right has the command menu.
The bottom left is where the action is. It tells you the active elements of the area, and what they’re doing, and where they are. I populated it with a bunch of actions, but I don’t like the way it looks repeating the list of the active elements like that. Also it’s apparent that I’ll have to implement my own scrollbar. I’m kind of surprised that it isn’t built in, but if it was it would probably be ugly anyways. I’m thinking I’ll put the list of active elements back in the upper left area, but then it’ll have to do something to let the player know it’s changed, since their focus will be on the lower left portion of the screen.
A couple of ideas I’ve got are having a box ‘explode’ away from the text as an eyecatch when it changes, and having it erase and slowly re-write, making it clear something is happening by animation. The latter one would be like an old RPG’s text boxes, slowly populating with text as it happens. I’m thinking of doing that with the action area too, to make it feel more like it’s happening as it happens, rather than having the player read over it at their leisure. Then I can work in bold text and special effects, like WHAM! and POW!
I had considered putting lines in to seperate the different sections of the description, but I kind of like it this way. Without the clear boundaries, everything sort of flows together like it’s all part of the same document. One of my biggest problems with some interactive fiction I’ve tried is how intrusive and ugly the sectioning is, seperating elements harshly. Here they’re all together, seperated only by a little blank space.
One more thing I’m considering is giving every mobile it’s own colour for its name. I’m not sure that’s a good idea, though. Right now I’ve got red for dangerous mobiles and objects and yellow for other mobiles, blue for objects and green for locations. Maybe I should stick with that. If mobiles each have their own colour, it might be good for identifying them without reading, but it would be confusing what they’re about. Of course, the text should always say if they’re being aggressive, but some things like that fire are dangerous without being aggressive.
Also, I only coloured a few instances of the names of objects here, but I’m thinking of doing it every time an object is referenced, and having every reference be usable for the context menu. I’ve even considered putting the basic commands menu under the context for You. That would mean I could really minimize the interface and, with that first one, just have the three paragraphs. But, I don’t want to have to re-do text constantly. In text games the most common command is look, just so you don’t have to scroll up to find the room description again. Plus, it could get really annoying having to click on “You” every time you want to use a common command.
In this version I moved the local active objects to the top portion, which really cleans up the action area, but it only shows your current awareness, like Hank’s name.
I like it so far. I’d like to do a comparison with titles for the different sections, but I’m getting awfully tired, so I’m going to log off and take a nap. Tell me what you think so far!