I’m developing user interfaces for each platform (desktop, various mobile, iPad). In the process, I’ve noted the requirement that the user may be new to Interactive Fiction. This has been discussed in the hobbyist community a lot in the past year and we’ve made strides in agreement on the subject. I think there are basic components to any IF user interface that are required for all levels of play.
- An introduction – The Welcome to Interactive Fiction document on the Inform 7 website is fabulous and I used this as a templte in developing the introductions for Shadow and Secret Letter. This should contain information about the game itself, possibly a map, pictures of the characters, and setting.
- A complete set of hints – Some authors have added hints to their games through menus while others have offered a walkthrough. Textfyre has offered hints that follow a sort of computerized version of Invisclues by offering a topic and a list of hints in encrypted words. Click on the hint and it decrypts for you. I think this should be a standard in ever game and the hints should be complete, meaning a player should be able to complete the game by touching every hint. It’s the players choice to use or not use the hints.
- A complete set of tips. Tips are different than hints. They are more focused on the beginning of the game and their intent is to educate the player on how to use a standard Interactive Fiction interface. Each device will implement hints in its own way. This could be done with popup balloons, with speech, with a semi-transparent pop up window, popup toast, a highlighted portion of text, or something else. These tips could be relative to a point in the game or tied to command input, but the idea is to help new users through rough spots. It could also be used to point out game-specific oddities for all players.
- A standard set of instructions or help – This is different than the introduction in that the help is generic and not game specific.
- Save and Restore should retain scrollback or command+response history. When the player returns to the user interface and starts it up or restores a saved game
I think if all of these items are implemented, the user will have a significantly easier time in playing Interactive Fiction on any platform. They will know to look for certain aspects of the interface and have that “ah ha” moment each time.