Telling ambiguity   Leave a comment

So, as Sean Barrett points out in my last post, I botched considering the possibilities of TELL in the ASK/TELL system to break out of conversation as a mere series of questions.

Adding TELL makes conversation a series of nouns, but it’s an improvement. However, there’s a deeper problem with the verb, and it’s the ambiguity of, say,

>TELL LESTER ABOUT THE KNIFE
What are you saying to Lester about the knife, exactly? That it exists? That it was found as evidence in the bedroom? That his fingerprints are on it? That you claim his fingerprints are on it, even though they aren’t?

or

>TELL HENRY ABOUT HENRY
Is it supposed to be a compliment or an insult?

or

>TELL FRANK ABOUT THE HOUSE
Is this about how much money it cost, or how good it looks, or the location?

With ASK, assuming the player meant to say “tell me everything you know about topic X” doesn’t cause many problems. The limit of information given is defined by the NPC. TELL is trickier to parse; since the information is inside the PC it should theoretically be the player specifying where to begin and stop. The player briefly loses control of the PC (moreso than with ASK, at least).

Sometimes context makes it obvious what the PC should say, but if the author means to allow a great deal of TELLling, there’s going to be nonobvious cases as well.

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Posted February 10, 2005 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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