Gimmicks in Interactive Fiction
Less Is More
- One Room, No Inventory, No Score, One Turn, No NPCs, No Choice.
- Goals: Amnesia, Escape, Kill the Evil, Rescue, Stranded, Testing Ground,
- Branching: No Branching (On Rails), Parallel Tracks, Multiple Endings.
- Multiple Protagonists
- Amnesia. You have forgotten who you are. You must explore your environment
for clues to find out who and where you are, then find a way to restore your memory.
- Escape. You have been imprisoned and want to escape your confinement.
- Kill the Evil. An evil wizard, warlord, demon, or monster is destroying all that is good.
Find items of power, then go and defeat the guy. That is, you must either kill, exile, or imprison him.
- Rescue. Someone or something of value has been taken away from you. It is in a guarded
location. You must go find out where it is, and get you and it back to safety.
- Stranded. You have been stranded in some isolated location (desert island, unexplored planet,
derilict spaceship, lonely interstate). You win when you find transporation home, or when you return home.
- Testing Ground. You have been dropped into a completely unfamiliar area, either to test
how you react, or to test if the grounds do what they're supposed to do. You must solve a bunch of puzzles
until you can find the exit.
- ASCII Graphics, True Graphics, Sound, Color, Bold/Italics, Person/Voice, Animation,
Metaverb Usurption, Input Hijacking.
- Collect the Plot Token(s), Riddles, Mazes, Wordplay, Magic, "Swiss Army Knife", Survival?
- Survival. Staying alive, as worthy a goal as it is, is almost never the sole goal of a game.
Hints & Help
- False Hints. Some games may include hint categories or hints about objects or situations
that aren't in the game.
- Hint Count Limit. Some games may limit the total number of hints that you can see in one
complete gaming session.
- Hint Score Penalty. Some games may reduce your score for consulting the hints.
- Hints Off Command. Some games may include a HINTS OFF command to
disable the game's hint system, to minimize the temptation to use hints.
- Plot-Specific. Hints are associated with plot points or large geographic areas. The
HINT command will only offer hints for the part of the game that you've already seen.
- Room-Specific. Hints are associated with specific rooms. The HINT command
will only offer hints for the room that the protagonist is in.
- Object-Specific. Hints are associated with specific objects. For example, you might enter a command
like HINT ABOUT FIREPLACE.
- Encoded or Obscured Hints. Hints might be encoded with a simple substitution
cipher, written in invisible ink, or printed in blue with red print on top. These techiques are to prevent
casual or accidental reading of hints, yet still make them available with a little effort.
- Hint Menus. The hints are packaged into categories, and many subcategories. The user selects
a hint topic category to access a series of hints on that topic.
- Hint Sage. A sage is someone (or something) within the game that provides hints about selected
topics when you ask or consult them. A non-living sage might be an encyclopedia or a computer.
- Hint Series. The hints are presented in a serial order. For example, you cannot see the third
hint until you've seen the previous two hints.
- Transcript. Similar to a walkthrough, except that the game's responses are included after
each command. Transcripts, when they exist, are almost always in an external file.
- Walkthrough. A list of commands that a provide a "winning" path through the game.
Some walkthroughs may provide commentary, or include unnecessary yet interesting commands.
Other walkthroughs are more terse. Walkthroughs and transcripts are not usually considered good
substitutes for hints, except as a last resort.
- Internal Hints. Internal hints are included in the game's program, usually accessed by a
HELP or HINT command, but sometimes through a Hint Sage.
- External Hints. External hints are not included in the game, but in separate files or other
media. File options include text files, HTML files, and specialized help system files like UHS.
Other hint media options include booklets or other "feelies".
- Lots of Rooms, Xyzzy, Plugh, and Plover, Breaking Mimesis, Made-Up Languages, Gimmick Reversal,
Red Herrings, ROYGBIV, Four Elements, Four Seasons, Amusing, Endnotes, Copy Protection, Age Protection.