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§5.6. Viewpoint

Inform automatically creates a character for the player - a bland, personality-free entity at the outset, as we've seen. But there is no reason why the player need stick to this same identity throughout the story. Conventional fiction often jumps from one viewpoint character to another, and so can IF.

To do this at the most elementary level, we simply at some point

now the player is Janine;

where Janine is a person we've already defined in the code. Now the player is in whatever location Janine inhabits, carries whatever Janine carries, and wears whatever Janine is wearing. Terror of the Sierra Madre shows off this effect, and also demonstrates how to make the command prompt remind the player which character he currently controls. Some games instead give this information in the status line or after the name of the location when looking, producing output like

The Bottomless Acherousia (as Charon)

We could do the same by adding a line such as

After printing the name of a room while constructing the status line or looking:
    say "[roman type] (as [the player])"

Of course, we'll need a good deal of other work to make Janine a distinct person from whichever character the player was before. The distinction may come from changed capabilities of the new character, which we can express through new rules about actions; e.g.,

Instead of listening when the player is Janine:
    say "Your childhood accident left you unable to hear any but the loudest noises. Currently there is only silence."

Janine may also have new, different perspective on her surroundings, expressed through the descriptions of the things she looks at; Uncommon Ground makes a "by viewpoint" token for text alternatives, allowing us to tag our descriptions to indicate which variations should be shown to which viewpoint characters. The Crane's Leg 1 and 2 offer more elaborate and specialized ways of customizing the player character's observations to depend on how he relates (physically and in attitude) to the things around him.

If we want to change the tense and person of narration from the conventional present second person, we may do this as well:

When play begins:
    now the story viewpoint is first person plural;
    now the story tense is past tense.

Though this only changes the form of the text produced automatically by Inform (responses such as "you can't go that way" might become, say, "I couldn't go that way"), and all author-written text in the story must be written in the tense and person intended.

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arrow-right.png Onward to Chapter 6: Commands: §6.1. Designing New Commands

*ExampleThe Crane's Leg 2
A description text generated based on the propensities of the player-character, following different rulebooks for different characters.

**ExampleUncommon Ground
Making a "by viewpoint" token, allowing us to design our own text variations such as "[show to yourself]quaint[to Lolita]thrilling[to everyone else]squalid[end show]" depending on the identity of the player at the moment.

***ExampleThe Crane's Leg 1
A description text that automatically highlights the ways in which the object differs from a standard member of its kind.

***ExampleTerror of the Sierra Madre
Multiple player characters who take turns controlling the action.