Atmospheric message

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A technique for increasing the player's sense of immersion in the game world is to regularly print a random message describing events occurring in the background. Some classic examples include:

  • "High overhead, a tortoise flaps across the sun" (Balances, Graham Nelson)
  • "Thorin sits down and sings about gold" (The Hobbit)
  • Others ?

The messages can either be specific to a location or set of locations, associated with a particular object or creature (eg. "the dog scratches himself behind the ear"), or universal - occurring wherever the PC happens to be at the time.

Advantages

  • Adds a sense of immersion in the game environment.

Disadvantages

  • Atmospheric messages can easily be mistaken for important, game related information. This was a minor criticism of the 2005 IF Competition game Distress (Mike Snyder).
  • If the messages are too wordy or too frequent, the player can suffer from text overload.
  • After a certain point, the messages can feel repetitive.

Implementation

  • A daemon can be used to regularly generate the messages. The time interval between messages should be random.
  • A reasonably long list of messages is required to keep things interesting.
  • Avoid repeating the same message twice in a row. One possible strategy is to pick a random message from the first half of the list, then put that message at the end of the list so that it won't get printed again for a while.

Messages to avoid

  • Don't include things the player would want to interact with (eg. "an old man hobbles up to you" ... >x man ... "you can't see any such thing").
  • Beware of messages that could contradict game events (eg. "you hear a faint dripping sound" during an earthquake).

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