Having to Open Doors in IF: Bad Form?


I’ve been beta-testing Realm of Obsidian for a few weeks now, and two of my testers told me that having to open a door annoys them.

Many games allow the player to move through a door and into the next area, and the opening of the door is an automatic thing. The player doesn’t have to consider whether a door is open or closed. If it isn’t locked or barred in some way, they can just go in that direction.

In my game, you will be told that the door is closed, if trying to go in a direction where a closed door lies. My main reason for this? I have a sound that plays when a door is opened or closed. (Actually, it can be one of several sounds, depending on what door is being dealt with.) Sure, I could have the door open automatically on going north (for example), then play the sound and put the PC in the next location. But for me, there’s something special about entering the command “open door” and hearing a “creeeek” sound.

If enough people complain, I might change this. But for now, it remains. I’ll be submitting Realm of Obsidian to the Spring Thing competition with the “door issue” as is. Maybe I’ll get a point deduction of some kind, though of course, I hope not. I just don’t think it’s a big deal to type in “open door.” Any thoughts, anyone?


11 Responses to Having to Open Doors in IF: Bad Form?

  1. Aric Maddux says:

    I think most players would complain about “stubborn” doors, and it generally is in bad form for modern IF. I would say it is even slightly worse form to slow down a player’s interaction to force them to observe a feature, unless that feature is a hint or adds something significant. Even if you have doors automatically, there is nothing in place from preventing a user who wants to type “open door” from doing so.

  2. Mark J Musante says:

    The advice I have is to think about what kind of interactions you want your players to have with the game. Is having them type “OPEN DOOR” going to have impact on the gameplay? For example, does it use up a turn in a timed puzzle? Or does something fall on their heads if they haven’t solved another puzzle? Or is the door handle electrified and they’ll need to disable the trap? Or is it just there because you want it there?

    In games, we don’t force people to >PIVOT BODY EAST before walking east. We assume the player faces in the direction he or she is walking. Likewise, if a door is to the east and the player wishes to go through the door, then let them go.

    Games can be known for writing or for puzzles (or both, for the best sort of games). A sequence of “>E // The door is closed // >OPEN DOOR // Opened // >E” is essentially a one-move puzzle. And a very common one. Unless you’re bringing something new to this puzzle, I’d advise dropping it.

  3. amethystgames says:

    Thank you for the responses, Mark and Aric. I must admit that the only reason I want to require an “open door” command is the neato sound effect accompanying the command. Food for thought. Gears grinding here. I do have three weeks to change this before the Spring Thing Competition…

  4. Mark J Musante says:

    You can still have the sound effect play when doors are automatically opened, at least in TADS and Inform. What language are you using?

    • amethystgames says:

      I’m using a new system called TAB (Thinbasic Adventure Builder). It’s listed in my blogroll if you want more information. I can do what you mentioned in TAB as well, it’ll just take some doing.

  5. Sarah says:

    I only find it to be a large issue when you’ve got disambiguation. If there are, say, 8 doors in a room, syntax-juggling them can get a bit tedious. Otherwise I don’t mind.

    Could the sound effect be tied to the act of entering the doorway, rather than opening the door?

    • amethystgames says:

      Yes, I can do that. It would take some extra coding, but it can be done. Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  6. Jimmy Maher says:

    As a player, I like to open my own doors, especially if I have spent a great deal of time finding a key, solving a combination lock, etc.

    However… as an author with a game of my own in testing, I recognized pretty quickly that many IF players do not feel the same way. And I believe in catering to my players as long as doing so is not at odds with my own vision for the game. So… auto-opening doors it is! Players who like to open their own doors can still do so, after all.

    I would advise you to consider carefully before doing (or in your case not doing) something that is going to annoy a sizable percentage of your players, especially if the only reason you can point to is that a cool sound plays. (Actually, I’d be very careful with the “cool sounds” too, or at least give the player an easy way to turn them off… but that’s yet another subject.)

    One thing that I have learned from my testers’ transcripts is how many different styles of IF player there are. For instance, I never use pronouns personally, and so never gave them much thought when designing my game. Sure enough, testing revealed that it had a talent for consistently picking the wrong pronoun in just any situation.

  7. Jason says:

    Depends on how many doors there are that are closed, and whether opening doors has any gameplay impact. If it were a haunted house, then sure, opening doors would be a big deal since you never know what’s going to be behind them.

    Otherwise, if you have to open doors every time and nothing special or unique ever happens, people will get tired of it quickly.

  8. amethystgames says:

    Thank you for the advice, Jimmy and Jason! My mind is now changed, and I will be changing the way doors bar (or don’t bar) the PC’s progress. It’ll be fixed in my next release.

    On a side note, Jimmy mentioned having an easy way to turn off the sounds. On beginning of play, a dialog box pops up, which asks the player if they want to play with sound on. Also, I have commands such as “sound off” and “sound on.” Since these commands turn off all sound, I have an option to turn off the music as well, which would leave the sound effects on.

  9. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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