When you start a game, you will first see an introduction, usually consisting of
one or a few screenfuls of text, giving you some background on who you are, where you are,
and perhaps even what your objectives in the game are.
Whenever the game has printed a screenful of text,
it will wait until you press ENTER or some other key, so that you get a chance to
read everything before it scrolls off the top of the screen.
How to interact
When the introduction is over, you will get a prompt, usually ">",
but it may be a little different from game to game. The prompt means that the
game is now waiting for you to tell it what you want to do. You do this by typing
in imperative commands, as if you were commanding someone. Let's say the introduction
told you that you are in a kitchen, and that you can see a closed glass jar standing
on the kitchen counter. Commands you could try at this point include TAKE THE JAR,
or OPEN THE JAR,
or perhaps EXAMINE THE JAR (Throughout this document, things that are written in capital
letters with an italic font are complete commands that can be typed into an IF game. They don't have
to be typed in capital letters when entered into a game).
If you want to, you can skip the articles: TAKE JAR will work
just at well as TAKE THE JAR. If there are several different jars you could mean, the
game may ask you which one you mean. Just type one or more words that uniquely identifies
one of the items. For instance, if the game says "Which one do you mean, the blue glass jar
or the green glass jar?", you might reply BLUE to take the blue one. You can also choose
to ignore the question altogether, just typing a new command.
To go to another location, most games expect you to type in which direction you want
to go. You can type GO SOUTH, but just SOUTH will also do the trick, as will S (which is
the commonly accepted abbreviation for SOUTH). Other directions and their abbreviations are
NORTH (N), EAST (E), WEST (W), NORTHEAST (NE), SOUTHEAST (SE), NORTHWEST (NW),
SOUTHWEST (SW), UP (U), DOWN (D), IN and OUT. If you are aboard a ship of some kind
you may also be able to use FORE, AFT, STARBOARD and PORT.
Other ways to move
around may include commands like ENTER CAR, GO CAR, SIT ON MOTORCYCLE, GET ON BIKE,
CLIMB ONTO SHIP, JUMP ONTO PLATFORM, DIVE INTO LAKE, BOARD SHIP, EXIT CAR, EXIT, LEAVE, GET OUT.
Exactly which commands are recognized vary from game to game as well as from situation to situation in those
games. When interacting with IF games, always try to express yourself as simply as possible.
If you have tried several ways of expressing yourself and the game refuses to understand
what you want to do, you are most probably on the wrong track; it's time to try something completely different.
As you know by now, you can use the verb TAKE to pick up items in the game. Of course, you
can also use DROP to drop items. Most modern games actually recognize a hundred different verbs
or more. With some of the most used verbs, you can also use multiple items, like this:
TAKE GREEN BALL AND SCREWDRIVER or DROP ALL or PUT ALL BUT HAMMER IN BAG. You'll find that
ALL is often a very useful word, although it only works with certain verbs, most notably TAKE and DROP.
Here are some of the most important verbs, with examples:
LOOK or L
L or LOOK AT BOB or LOOK IN JAR or LOOK UNDER BED
EXAMINE or X
EXAMINE KNIFE or X KNIFE
INVENTORY or I
LOCK DOOR WITH RUSTY KEY
UNLOCK DOOR WITH RUSTY KEY
ASK JOHN ABOUT POLICE OFFICER
TELL JOHN ABOUT MURDER
SAY HELLO TO JOHN
GIVE RABBIT TO BOB
SHOW KNIFE TO POLICE OFFICER
WAIT or Z
AGAIN or G
Other verbs you will need from time to time include ATTACK, BUY, COVER, DRINK, EAT, FILL, JUMP, KISS, KNOCK, LISTEN,
MOVE, PULL, PUSH, REMOVE, READ, SIT, SLEEP, STAND, THROW, TIE, TOUCH, TURN, TYPE, UNTIE, WEAR. There are
lots more. Hopefully they will seem natural to you when you need them.
How time works
Almost all IF games count time in turns, rather than hours and minutes. Every time you type something and
press ENTER, one turn passes. This also means that until you press ENTER, no time
passes. You could think of a turn as being something like a minute, but
how long it actually is depends on what you do during that turn. If you want time to pass,
but don't want to perform any actions, just type WAIT or Z. This will prove
useful while waiting for someone to arrive or something to get ready in the oven etc (in the game world,
not in the real world!).
There are games that
use real-time instead of turn-based play, but they are few and far between, and they will tell you about
their real-time system at the beginning of the game.
Talking to people
The most useful ways of talking to people usually involve the verbs ASK and TELL. When using them, try to
pin down the best keyword for what you are interested in, rather than longer constructs. For example,
TELL BOB ABOUT HOW I SAW SHEILA GIVE A STRANGE AMULET TO ANOTHER WOMAN
is not likely to yield any useful results, but TELL BOB ABOUT AMULET or perhaps
TELL BOB ABOUT SHEILA may indeed be useful. In other words, you tell the game the subject you want
to talk about or ask about, not exactly what to say. The game will try to make reasonable assumptions
on what you want to say regarding the subject.
Also note that many games are quite primitive when it
comes to modelling people. The author has to put in an enormous amount of work to make people
in the game behave realistically and respond well to conversation. In general, don't expect too
much from people in the game, but there are of course games that shine in this area too.
You'll also see that some authors prefer menu-based conversation, to facilitate interaction.
To tell someone else to do something, type the name of the person, a comma, and then a command. Example:
BOB, BREAK THE JAR. Just like in real life, most people won't
automatically do something just because you tell them to.
If you think Bob knows what to do with the jar, you can also try
GIVE JAR TO BOB or SHOW JAR TO BOB.
All games recognize some verbs that don't do anything in the game world, but tells the game something about
how you want it to behave, or some special task you want it to peform. These verbs include:
Takes back the last move you made.
QUIT or Q
Ends the current game.
Starts the game over from the beginning.
Saves your current position to a file on disk.
Loads a previously saved game position.
HELP or ABOUT
Shows some information about the game and its author, in some cases
even hints to some of the puzzles.
Tells the game you want a long description of every room you enter,
even if you've been there before.
Tells the game you want a long description the first
time you enter a room, and a short description when you come back. This is the default mode.
Tells the game you always want short descriptions of
Getting stuck and unstuck
While playing IF, you will get stuck. This is part of the deal -- where there are puzzles, there will also
be stuckness. If you grow tired of being stuck in the same spot for too long, you can either type HELP
in the game to see if there are any hints available, or you can ask other players for hints. A good place
to ask for hints is the newsgroup
rec.games.int-fiction. That's also
one of the best places to meet other IF players, discuss games you've played, get tips on games you
should play and more.
Oh, one last thing about playing interactive fiction. Make a map as you play. You are very likely to need it.