How many verbs are perfect?

In Curse of MI, the coin interface actually provided 3 verbs. That’s at least more than the number of verbs from some more recent games (e. g. the Deponia series), but “talk to” and “look at” are so basic that it feels like a single-verb-UI, since the only verb for actions is the (universal) hand icon, which can be seen as a “use” verb. Well, the inventory additionally has a drag & drop function, but 3 verbs are basically very limited. I think that it wouldn’t necessarily need 9 verbs, but 6 verbs (including “pick up”, “push” and “pull”) might be a reasonable minimum of options.

I remember that there was a discussion about the verb “give”, since it can be replaced by a dialog with the respective non-playable character.

Yes, most likely. I’m aware it’s the opposite trend we currently see in adventure games (single point & click). But as many here, growing up playing the classics with multiple verbs gives me some perspective, and I just feel that modern adventure games are dumb down versions of what the genre used to be. I guess it’s at the core of what has been discussed before in this forum, new gamers are just lazy and can’t be bothered. They’re after instant satisfaction. Excuse me now, time for my afternoon nap and warm glass of milk. :joy:

If you’re going to reduce the verbs to USE (+ LOOK, PICKUP), it’s very doable, but you need to design a different game that you would with 9 verbs (or a parser). The puzzles aren’t about “how” to manipulate an object, but come more “what” object to manipulate. There is nothing wrong with it, it’s just a different design. The issue comes when desingers don’t understand that and just make USE be all 9 verbs. The very first games that dropped the verbs suffered from this. Designers are better at it these days.


Wouldn’t it give you more room for creativity if the puzzles are not only about “what” but also “how” to manipulate the objects?

I’m just saying that removing the verbs also changes how to design puzzles, and some designers don’t get that when they move to a single verb. That’s all I’m saying.


It’s because there is only one kind of animation.

You push/pull based on what side you click on. It wasn’t the best-designed interaction, David struggled with it for weeks. At some point, your changes are just making it worse, so you stop.

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As @Nor_Treblig said it doesn´t really feel like pulling when all you do is kick with your leg.

It´s really about the only puzzle I don´t really like, just because of that mechanic. It´s still a bit of a pain even on replays.

Then again I´m also glad the use of the navigator head isn´t mandatory to finish the game.

If you think about it, Push&Pull only works on one axis, related to the given perspective/item.

Imagine you would want to enter a garage. Just before you can enter it, the postman delivers a huge package, which blocks the way, and drives away quickly. You’ll try to Push&Pull it but why wouldn’t you want to climb on it (unless the character has a fear of heights), try to rotate it (which probably would be item related), lift it …?

Sometimes it sounds interesting to have more context related options (without giving things away, ending up in trial and error or having way too many animations, the thoughts were a nice but never well implemented idea, maybe they’re too indirect, distracting and not worth the effort … hmmm, nope.

Ahh, the usual approach: If you’ve borrowed the scissor already, you could cut your way into the package (and get fancy stuff but you don’t get through because you only were able to damage the structure of one side with the sprinkler and cars driving by). Maybe try to get on top of the package (no ladder, you’ll first need to find the secret way to the roof [get the info from a childhood memory conversation with the owner of the house in the laser disc store] and apply the anti slippery adhesion creme). Then you can jump on the package and crumple it (action!) and get into the garage. You can get out by using the trimmer from inside the garage on the other side of package - this could look nice. Or you just need to attach enough balloons to the package.

Ja, it depends on your design and the type of game. In a pheromone accented world you would like to sniff too. If it’s not something completely different, I like at least having 4 verbs/icons (you want to TalkTo people too).

Same here. But I see also that a UI with too much verbs could overwhelm the player. Best example are the Legend adventure games:

I bet that no one has used the whole verbs in the left column. So I would like to have more options/verbs but not too much. But your idea with the prepositions isn’t bad.

You can activate more and more verbs during the first half of the game. With this approach you can “suck” the player with the story in the game and “force” him to use the UI and his brain. :slight_smile:

Hehe - It’s bedtime here in Germany. :wink:

But would this still be an adventure game? You won’t have any puzzles: The player just has to click on objects to push the story further. Even if he randomly click on objects, the story would progress. Have a look at the Telltale games or the “walking simulators” for example. I wouldn’t consider them as adventure games.

Why have you chosen the 9 verb interface for TWP?

It’s not about different solutions, it’s about me, the player, that has to think which option is the correct one. :slight_smile: With more verbs it seems that I have more options, even if that’s not the case. Have a look at Indy 3: It has more verbs but only some puzzles have different solutions. But I feel far more “free” as in, for example, the Broken Sword series.

It’s a little bit off-topic, but I liked the “sratch’n’sniff” cards in Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Larry 7. They were a good example of how well a “real world” interface could work. :wink:

I agree, of course. But, sometimes it also depends on “when” you do something. So, you still have a second degree of freedom.

I had this feeling when I was playing the (very long) “finale” of Deponia Doomsday. It has a two-verbs interface. There are lots of situations in which you just have too few options. Even when the solution of the current puzzle was not obvious (some of them are really far-fetched), it didn’t feel like an actual puzzle, because I just had to try a few combinations and the game proceeded. All in all, it was quite a funny game, but I think that the puzzle design has some weaknesses in this game - not least because the entire story is extremely unrealistic, but definitely also because there are only two verbs.

Also it’s unlikely you can just magically fix something. Normally you have to use an inventory item (tool and/or material) in a such a fixing process.

You can still have great puzzles with objects only, especially if you have inventory items and allow “Use … with …”.
And then there are dialog puzzles.
Reducing to a single Use-verb doesn’t mean bad/no puzzles per se.

I’ve answered this a hundred times in a hundred different interviews. I did it for nostalgic reasons. I don’t think going to a USE verb interface would have captured the charm we were trying to reproduce from the era. I would never do it again. There are much more interesting interfaces to explore.


Can you give an example? If I have three objects in my inventory, I just have to drag and drop them onto a object in the environment. And if I don’t know which object, I can just try them one by one. The result is more like a hidden object game and not an adventure.

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You are limited to a maximum verb count per hotspot but it’s actually not just 3 verbs: Using graphical icons you (or the game designer) can use different interactions depending on the context. For instance inhale in CMI and also FT made a lot of use of this. It’s also easy to collapse open/close into one verb.

But if instead of 3 inventory items you have 3 additional verbs you can also just click with them on every object in the environment until something happens.
I don’t think there is much difference for a player in having a lot of verbs or having a lot of inventory items.
For the game designer it may be more of a difference though how he approaches puzzle design.

Yes, but I would like to know why you have chosen exactly nine verbs (and the nine verbs as they are now in the game)? I know you have said in an interview that the MM verbs were too much. But why not 10 verbs? Or you could have replaced “pull” and “push” with “move”. In that case you would have a free place in the UI for the kids changing symbols?

They are the verbs from MI, and that was the best refinement of the verb UI.

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From your point of view/own experiences or have you made usability tests back then (resp. have you got letters/feedback from players)?

Try The Cave. No verbs and great puzzles too (end asskiss)

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You guys are way over thinking this. As a designer, most everything you do is what feels right.