Compass rose

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Compass rose1.png
A compass rose is a figure that displays the points of a compass in a circular arrangement.

In real life, a compass rose can be quite detailed, showing 32 or more points of the compass, both magnetic and true north (and corresponding other directions), and labelled with both abbreviations and degree values.

In IF, the compass rose is simplified to only the 8 compass directions in common usage: the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) and the four diagonal directions (northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest). Since many works of IF also use the directions up, down, in, and out, these additional four directions tend to be incorporated in one way or another near the rose as part of a larger figure.

Compass roses in IF may be:

  • either ASCII art or graphical,
  • a display only or a clickable control,
  • displayed either in the main window or in a pop-up window,
  • used by the player as a navigation aid,
  • displayed on an in-game or feelies map to show which way is north.

In Z-machine games

On the Z-machine, some games use ASCII art in a three-row tall status bar to represent the compass rose. Normally, capitalized abbreviations for the directions are used to show a valid direction of travel from the current location, arranged around some neutral character that doesn't change. When a part of the rose is left blank, that usually means that travel in the corresponding direction is not possible.

The directions up and down, if in the game, are represented by positions on one side of the rose with either a "U" or "Up" placed above a "D" or "Down".

The directions in and out, if represented at all, would likely go on the other side of the rose to balance the up and down directions. Absence of in and out directions in the rose does not mean those directions are not valid choices in the game. It may be that the in and out directions always duplicate standard directions in the rose, and are omitted as superfluous.


   W  .  E
Example 1: Bronze (Emily Short; 2006).
Color is used to convey additional information. In this case, red means an unexplored direction while navy (or the default color) means explored. Also, the rose is more spaced out than typical.
   ^ ^
 W @ E 
SW ^
Example 2: A New Life (Alexandre Owen Muñiz; 2005).
Carets are used to represent mountains or steep hills in the appropriate directions. Also, visible directions only show the obvious paths; hidden paths might hide in the blank portions of the compass.
 W * E  In
SW S SE Down
Example 3: Mother Loose (Irene Callaci; 1998).
The directions "In" and "Out" share the same slot in the sidebar, between "Up" and "Down".
Example 4: Winter Wonderland (Laura A. Knauth; 1999).
Directions are indicated not with abbreviations but with straight lines (hyphen, vertical bar, slash, and backslash) and arranged like spokes on a wheel.

In TADS games

For some reason, TADS games don't seem to do compass roses quite so often, although they have a couple extra tricks to add to the mix: links and variable font size:

Example: Arrival, or Attack of the B-Movie Clichés (Stephen Granade; 1998; TADS 2). Note that the link in the rose's center lets the player remove the compass. Typing "display compass" restores it. Also, color is used to distinguish between valid and invalid directions of travel.

In ADRIFT games

ADRIFT Control Panel short.png

The ADRIFT game author has very limited control over the ADRIFT status bar and cannot, for example, change it enough to offer ASCII art compass roses the way the Z-machine game author can.

However, the ADRIFT author doesn't have to code something like that. The ADRIFT Runner has a standard feature called the Control Panel which features an array of navigation buttons arranged like a compass rose. The Control Panel is available from the Options menu, or just by pressing the F1 key.

Graphical compass roses

Alternatives to compass roses

The most common alternative to a compass rose is a simple list of valid directions. A rather unsubtle version of this idea is in ASCII and the Argonauts (J. Robinson Wheeler; 2003; Z-code), done in a style that mimics the older games by Scott Adams. Here is the opening location text:


A more elegant version of an exits list is offered by TADS 3. Here's an example from an early location in All Hope Abandon (Eric Eve; 2005; TADS 3):

Hell's Gate
north  south  east  west 

Each of the offered directions is clickable with a mouse and associated with the appropriate command to move the PC in that direction. An advantage with lists is that the author also has the option of appending extra information to the choice, e.g.: "north (back to Kitchen)".

One could also offer a graphical list. This isn't commonplace, but it was tried with A Sugared Pill (Colin Borland; 2005; TADS 2). Here's what the icons looked like in the opening location:

A Sugared Pill navicons.png

The icons changed color from grayish to purple when that option became available. This arrangement also allowed the introduction of new icons for specialized travel, such as a steering wheel icon when driving a car.

Related Trivia

  • The IF Comp logo incorporates a stylized compass rose as part of its design.
  • In Beyond Zork (publisher: Infocom), there is a type of rare flower called a "compass rose". Because of rumors that the rose was able to control the wind, the Guild of Meteorologists harvested the species almost to extinction in what is now called the Rose Riots of 811 GUE.