Interactive Fiction: Instructions

What, no graphics?

In interactive fiction, the story unfolds -- via text -- in response to short commands that you type.

02 Feb 2001; by Dennis G. Jerz

The Basics

Type simple imperative statements (commands) to tell the program what you want to do. 

>look (describe area)
>examine lantern
>n (go north)
>go in
>take apple
>i (for inventory -- list all the things you are carrying)
>put lime in coconut
>show flower to Ariel
>tell Othello about handkerchief
>Juliet, drop the dagger

You will not be allowed to do everything you ask, but the author/programmer has tried to predict what you will try to do. If you are stuck, just ask yourself what you would do if you were really in the situation the text describes.

  • Take everything that isn't nailed down.
  • Examine things that are mentioned in the room description. (If the computer says it doesn't know an object, you might try a synonym, or you might conclude the object is unimportant.)
  • Open, search, or enter objects.
  • Type "long" to instruct the computer to print out room descriptions each time you enter a room (this saves you from having to type "look").

Partial list of commands:

  1. Using your Senses
  2. Moving Around
  3. Manipulating Objects
  4. Interacting with NPCs

Using your Senses

The following commands are among the most important found in IF. 

>look (redisplays a full description of your surroundings)
>examine [object]

Games will frequently embed important clues in the text that results from the above commands. Some sneaky authors may hide important information until you try something like the following:

>search [object]
>look under [object]

Other, less frequently implemented commands include:

>listen to [object]
>smell [object]
>taste [object]
>touch [object]
>rub [object]

Use shortcuts such as "l" for "look", "x [object]" for "examine [object]", and "g" for "repeat last command".

Moving Around

Typically, one moves by referring to compass directions.

>go north

You can also go in and out of things...

>get into bed
>enter chasm

...or move in other, special ways:

>climb ladder
>push teacart north

Manipulating Objects


* Try to take and/or examine every object you encounter. 
* If you encounter an object such as a "wide-brimmed cowboy hat," you can usually just refer to it as "hat". 

Try interacting with objects:
>take rod
>drop cube
>inventory (or just "i") (lists what you're carrying)
>open door
>turn on light
>set dial to 10
>push red button
>drink strawberry phosphate
>put two red disks in upper slot
>take all vegetables but the carrot

Interacting with NPCs

NPCs (non-player characters) are computer-controlled supporting actors. In most IF, the NPCs are pretty passive -- they tend to do their own thing until you trigger them to action. Watch what they do and pay attention to what they say -- the author wants you to be able to figure out what you're supposed to do, so there will be clues somewhere.

>kiss baby
>throw axe at dwarf
>give book to librarian

Conversation in IF is quite crude. Few NPCs will be able to understand natural-language questions such as "Ask Claudius what happened to my father." or "Macbeth, I think the trees are moving." You will have much better luck with the following, simplified syntax:

>ask Claudius about father
>tell Macbeth about trees
>show handkerchief to Othello
>give coin to apothecary

You can also issue simple commands, asking the NPCs to do some of the same things that you yourself can do.

>Kate, kiss me
>Falstaff, give me the bottle
>nurse, tell me about Romeo
>Ariel, sing

Options: Saving and Restoring; Display

To save a game, type "save".

To restore a previously saved game, type "restore".  (Note: don't type "load" by accident, even though "load" is the common phrasing today, the interface for the game was written before that term was common.)

To show room descriptions every time you enter a room, type "long".  To show only the descriptions of new rooms, type "brief".

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