When All is essential

Gareth Rees, January 1995

I think 'all' is essential for inventory management, that is:

get all
get all from container
drop all
put all in container
put all on supporter

Inventory management (that is, making sure you have the right objects in your possession) is a rather tedious part of an adventure game.

Anyone who played Adventure in an authentic Fortran version will remember some tedium the first time they encountered the Plover Room - you had to drop each object by name before exploring the room, and then pick them all up by name afterwards (and you had to do this each time you had a new idea about the solution to the puzzle).

Having to keep dropping and picking up the rucksack in Infidel was very frustrating too. It might be realistic, but realism doesn't necessarily make a game more playable (thank goodness for the innovation in Curses which automatically fetches things from your backpack and puts them away for you when your hands are full).

An adventure designer has more than one choice of functionality for 'all'. The command take all might try to pick up (i) everything in the room; or (ii) everything that's apparently takeable; or (iii) everything that's immediately visible; or (iv) everything that's immediately visible and apparently takeable.

I tend to favour choices (iii) and (iv), because they avoid the possibility of this happening:

There's a small writing table under the window, positioned to catch the best light in this dim room.

> take all
desk: Fixed in place.
papers: The stack of papers is much too heavy to contemplate taking.
folder: Taken.

when what the designer intended was this:

There's a small writing table under the window, positioned to catch the best light in this dim room.

> examine desk
There's a large pile of papers on the desk.

> examine papers
Buried near the bottom of the stack of papers, an orange folder catches your eye.

> take folder

One could argue the merits of this approach, of course (I think it's a good way of providing text more slowly to the player, and making the game more paced and responsive), but it would be a terrible shame if because of the functionality of 'all', the designer resorted to coding up the desk so that the papers didn't appear until the desk was examined and the folder didn't appear until the papers were examined (which really is nonsensical, and very annoying to players who play through this section of the game several times).

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Andrew Clover