Inform 7 Home Page / Documentation

§9.6. Reading Matter

Many things can be read, from warning notices to encyclopaedias, and a range of techniques is needed to provide them because the quantity of text, and how it presents itself, can vary so much. With a small amount of very large type, the player should not need any command at all to read the text:

The road sign is in the Junction. The road sign is fixed in place. "A road sign points north: 'Weston on the Green - 6'."

If the print is smaller, or the object portable, the player will expect to use the EXAMINE command:

The business card is in the Junction. The description is "'Peter de Sèvres: consultant mnemonicist.'"

But if the object is a leaflet, say, EXAMINE should only describe the cover: READ would be the command a player would expect to use to get at the text itself. Inform normally defines READ to be the same command as EXAMINE, which is good for things like the business card, but counter-productive here. The Trouble with Printing shows how to separate these two commands, allowing any thing to have a property called its "printing" for text produced by READ, which will be different from its "description", the text produced by EXAMINE.

If the object is a lengthy diary, say, nobody would read it from cover to cover in a single IF turn. We might then want to allow the player to turn the pages one by one, with commands like READ PAGE 4 IN DIARY or READ THE NEXT PAGE: see Pages.

If the object is an encyclopaedic reference work, the player would consult named entries: see Costa Rican Ornithology, which allows commands like LOOK UP QUETZAL IN GUIDE.

Still larger sources of text often occur in IF: libraries or bookshelves, where many books are found together, and it is clumsy to write them as many individual items. One approach is to simulate an entire bookshelf with a single thing: see Bibliophilia. (This is much like looking up topics in a single book, except that each topic is a book in itself.) Another is to provide each book as an individual item, but have them automatically join together into a single portable collection: see AARP-Gnosis.

Signs, leaflets and encyclopaedias, being printed, have a wording which will never change during play. But sometimes the player reads something which acts of its own accord. Text substitutions are usually all that is needed to achieve this:

The computer display is on the desk. The description is "Giant green digits read: [the time of day]."

This is easy because we know all the variations we want. But what if we want the player to write his own text, for instance, adding to a diary? This is trickier, because it means storing text as the player typed it, and replaying it later. (And suppose the player types reams and reams of text, not just a few words as we might have hoped?) The Fourth Body and The Fifth Body show how to use an external file - a multimedia trick requiring features only available if the project is set to the Glulx story file format - to handle even the most difficult cases.

Should we want a computer that responds to vocal commands, as in ASK COMPUTER ABOUT KLINGONS, the built-in extension Inanimate Listeners will allow the player to talk to inanimate objects as well as people.

arrow-up.png Start of Chapter 9: Props: Food, Clothing, Money, Toys, Books, Electronics
arrow-left.png Back to §9.5. Dice and Playing Cards
arrow-right.png Onward to §9.7. Painting and Labeling Devices

*ExampleThe Trouble with Printing
Making a READ command, distinct from EXAMINE, for legible objects.

A book with pages that can be read by number (as in "read page 3 in...") and which accepts relative page references as well (such as "read the last page of...", "read the next page", and so on).

*ExampleThe Fourth Body
Notebooks in which the player can record assorted notes throughout play.

A bookshelf with a number of books, where the player's command to examine something will be interpreted as an attempt to look up titles if the bookshelf is present, but otherwise given the usual response.

An Encyclopedia set which treats volumes in the same place as a single object, but can also be split up.

**ExampleThe Fifth Body
An expansion on the notebook, allowing the player somewhat more room in which to type his recorded remark.

***ExampleCosta Rican Ornithology
A fully-implemented book, answering questions from a table of data, and responding to failed consultation with a custom message such as "You flip through the Guide to Central American Birds, but find no reference to penguins."