Alternatives to verbs in UI of adventure games

A thread to discuss on past or future alternatives to the User Interface made up with verbs, in the context of adventure games.
Here we go!

Ok guys. Let’s list the problems with the coin UI :slight_smile: Who wants to start?

(I would first focus on the coin UI with hand-mouth-eye)

I would like to contribute to this thread, in the following days.

Can we define the goal of the coin UI, first?
Is it to create a UI that is simpler than the textual verb interface?

Some non-italian people? :slight_smile: @Nor_Treblig ?

I would like to start with the goal of a UI for adventure games.

  1. It must not spoil puzzles. It must not happen that you have an interesting puzzle but can’t express it with the UI, because the UI would spoil it.

  2. it should allow you to do obvious/typical things in a direct way, with as few clicks as possible; (ideally, one click to open a door or to read a book;)

  3. it should discourage you from combining things at random.

  4. it should not occupy a lot of space on screen.

  5. if possible it should have an iconic look, not only textual.

  6. ideally it should be impossible to solve a puzzle by trying everything on everything, without actually solving it first in your mind.

what else?

Is one of the goals to appeal to an audience wider than the one of old-school adventure game players?

I assume that it needs to work well with several input devices, like mouse, touchpad, touchscreen, gamepad?

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Right. So these are 7 and 8.

I don’t remember if the coin in DoTT Remastered is context-sensitive, but if it isn’t (that is: if the action icons that appear are always the same and always in the same order) then I think that’s a UI that meets most of (if not all) the requirements listed above.

To keep it simpler and more usable, you should have a low number of actions/icons. I would say no more that five.

Ok, so let’s first talk about the traditional (non DOTT) coin ui.

I’d say it has a big problem: (1). (since it only has the “hand”, puzzles based on push , pickup and open are immediately spoiled)

And a bit of (2), in that opening a door is a bit too complex…

And possibly the fact that the coin covers the object you just clicked, so you can’t see it while you are selecting the verb. And this is annoying IMHO.

If we agree about that, we can talk about DOTT remastered:

It is context-sensitive, I’m afraid. (for example, “open” does not always appear). However, I didn’t have time to play it, so I can’t talk about it yet.

Also, I noticed it has a lot of icons on an object… they did not merge push and pull, open and close into a single icon.

Ok, now let’s talk about a hypotetical coin UI like DOTT remastered but not context sensitive.

Let’s say it has 6 icons: push-pull, pickup, open-close, use, talk, look.

What would be the problems of such an interface?

DOTT remastered on PS4 is perfectly fine and I didn’t feel much difference of playing it the classic way. Monkey Island I-II special edition interface is gross as hell.

Well, I know one thing for sure: I’m not part of a target audience for most things in this world, especially UIs as I have learned.

When talking about LA-like UIs (fixed and limited amount of verbs) I don’t care much about the UI anyway since I use keyboard shortcuts :slight_smile:

Generally I think it’s a good idea to combine push-pull and open-close to remove unnecessary complexity (for devs and player). Puzzles like the trampoline can be redesigned to still work with that.

How does it work? Touchscreen and/or analogue sticks?

Analogue sticks + crappy SONY buttons…

I’m normally a keyboard + mouse gamer for adventure games and FPS (I use controllers for platformers of course). But most of the time I’ve played TWP with an XBox controller and it worked great, it’s also much better for couch co-op.

Only selecting verbs is cumbersome by default, but I assume coin interfaces work much better in this regard.

Here is one problem: if “push” is needed only twice in a game, some users have a problem with this… (for example, see bongobrain in the other thread, “can verbs be removed”).

so another requirement for UI could be:

(9) it should not contain verbs that are rarely needed.

It applies to push, open, and maybe even to pickup. they are used few times in a game.

And now we have a problem…because if we only show those verbs where they are needed, the puzzle is immediately spoiled, and we get back to problem (1).

ok, to solve the problem above, let’s consider this UI:

  1. the coin only shows those verbs that A) are obvious on that object, and B) produce a non-generic response. (so , for example, it never shows “push”, except on buttons. it never shows “open”, except on doors, bottles etc. and so on.)

  2. non obvious verbs must be typed.

what would be the problem of such a UI?

could respond: “it is cumbersome to type stuff”. But wait: this is only needed 10 times in the game! Is it a problem if you need to type something 10 times in the game?

I could see 2-3 “obvious” icons, and then an “other actions” icon, which lets you select from a set of a few other verbs. It’s very similar to how in TWP you can click on an item for the “obvious verb”, or select from a list when you want to do something interesting.

For me a mixing the graphical adventure with optional text entry would just be annoying. I’d get tired of playing “guess the verb” and when it might be appropriate. I think that would be even worse than pixel hunting.

Don’t get me wrong, I like text entry when it’s done well, with an elaborate parser, like a good text adventure. I just don’t like the idea mixed up with a graphical adventure with a primitive parser and small vocabulary.

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but you should only do it when you already have a clear idea what to do…

Sure - but you have to convert the ‘idea’ you have in your mind to a verb you think the parser would understand. I’m considering the design challenge. What if you want the user to “lift up the edge of the rug”. Do you accept “push” “pull” “lift” “look under” etc… it get’s very challenging to write a parser because everyone will think of a different way to say what they want to do, even if it’s the same basic idea. And the graphical adventure maker isn’t going to spend forever on their parser for the text entry, so you will be playing “guess the verb”.

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let me change topic for a second: (just brainstorming):

my 4-year-old girl likes to play these makeup games:

notice the inventory on the bottom. She combines inventory objects with the girl. (with two clicks in sequence, or with drag & drop — she can do both without problems).

She has no problem doing this, and finds it perfectly natural.

She has also started playing these games:

and again, she combines inv objects with characters, without problems.

so I think we could start from this. We know for sure that anyone can accept this.