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§10.2. Creating a scene
As usual, we only need to say that something is a scene to make it so:
Train Stop is a scene.
We conventionally write scene names with capital letters, as this demonstrates.
This works, and shows up in the "Scenes" index, but does nothing. We have given no instructions on when it begins - no cue, in stage-play terms - so it never will begin, and even if it did, nobody would notice since it does nothing. First, to give it a beginning:
Train Stop begins when the player is in the Station for the third turn.
In theory any condition can be used to cue the scene - here, it's "the player is in the Station for the third turn" - but it's wise to look for a state of affairs which will last at least a brief time, because scene changes only happen at the start and end of turns. (Something like "...when examining the timetable" may be true only for a part of the middle of a turn, and so go unnoticed.)
Every scene has two rulebooks attached, one at each end, so to speak. These look very like "when play begins" and "when play ends", and work in the same way. Thus:
When Train Stop begins:
now the Flying Scotsman is in the Station;
say "The Flying Scotsman pulls up at the platform, to a billow of steam and hammering."
When Train Stop ends:
now the Flying Scotsman is nowhere;
if the player is in the Station, say "The Flying Scotsman inches away, with a squeal of released brakes, gathering speed invincibly until it disappears around the hill. All is abruptly still once more."
Thus when the scene begins, our imaginary stage-hands wheel in a steam train; when it ends, they get rid of it again. Note that we know where the player will be at the start of the scene, but by the end he may have wandered off across the fields, so we must be careful not to report something he might not be in a position to see.
When Train Stop begins, we printed some text, but we did this by hand. We didn't need to, because Inform automatically prints out the description of a scene (if it has one) when the scene begins. Scenes can have properties, just like objects, and in particular they have the "description" property. For example, we could write:
Arrival is a scene. "There's a flourish of trumpets."
which saves us the trouble of writing the rule:
When Arrival begins: say "There's a flourish of trumpets."
We can also write rules like this which apply to a whole variety of scenes at once. For instance:
A scene can be bright or dim. A scene is usually dim. Dawn is a bright scene.
When a scene which is bright ends: say "So passes the bright [scene being changed]."
Here, instead of naming a scene ("Train Stop"), we've given a description ("a scene which is bright"). When a scene begins, these general rules come before those which name the scene exactly; when it ends, the reverse is true.
|Start of Chapter 10: Scenes|
|Back to §10.1. Introduction to scenes|
|Onward to §10.3. Using the Scene index|
Because scene rules are checked every turn, they can be useful for designing puzzles which have multiple solutions. Instead of deciding the puzzle is "solved" when the player does a certain action, we set up a scene that checks to see whether the player has achieved a certain outcome -- however he accomplished it.
For instance, in this scenario, we're waiting for Sleeping Beauty to wake up, and it doesn't much matter how...
Sleeping Beauty is an asleep woman in the Spinning Tower. "[if asleep]Sleeping Beauty lies here, oblivious to your presence[otherwise]Sleeping Beauty stands beside you, looking a little confused[end if]." The description is "She is even more magnificent than the rumors suggested." Understand "woman" or "girl" or "princess" or "lady" as Sleeping Beauty.
The power of scenes lies in their ability to watch for general conditions and move the narrative along whenever these are fulfilled. Instead of waiting for the player to do one specific thing, the game waits for the world to be in a certain condition, before moving to the next stage of the plot.
For instance, suppose we have a story in which the player has been captured for doing something inappropriate at court and is brought in to await a meeting with a palace official. We want to give the player a few minutes to stew, and we want the scene to end with him doing something mildly peculiar or embarrassing, and the official catching him in the act. So we tempt him into trying any of a number of different kooky activities, and just wait until he falls into the trap...
Waiting Suite is a room. "You find yourself in a narrow room, more cozy than is really comfortable, with dark paneling on all the walls. Underfoot is a thick carpet the color of dried blood. The head of a dragon kit is mounted on the wall."
The wood paneling is scenery in the Waiting Suite. The description is "Just the sort of ornate panels that might conceal a carved switch. You've heard all sorts of rumors about secret rooms and passages in the palace, some of which have not been opened in centuries because no one remembers how to get at them." Understand "panels" or "panel" or "panelling" as the paneling.
The thick carpet is scenery in the Waiting Suite. Understand "red" or "blood" or "rug" as the carpet. The description is "A dull, unwelcoming weave, only a touch redder than the wood around you. You discern that it does not lie perfectly flat."
Instead of touching the paneling for the first time: say "You run your hands over the paneling with a methodical touch, knowing exactly what you're looking for but never quite feeling anything that gives or twists; then thump lightly, looking for hollow spaces."
Instead of touching the paneling for the second time: say "With increased vigor, you run your fingers along the borders between panels, then smack each panel sharply at the center. No luck yet, but if you keep at it, you're bound to turn up anything that's there to find."
Instead of attacking the paneling: try touching the paneling. Instead of searching the paneling: try touching the paneling. Understand "knock on [something]" or "tap [something]" or "tap on [something]" as attacking.
After touching the paneling when the player is not confident:
say "Having polished off all the panels within easy reach, you now have to contort yourself around furniture here and crawl along the floorboards there, hitting each panel three times quite solidly before moving on.";
now the player is embarrassed.
A small table is an enterable supporter in the Waiting Suite. On the table is a copy of Dragon Pursuit Today. The description of Dragon Pursuit Today is "Full of glossy illustrations of dragons in various stages of capture, captivity, and destruction. The back of the magazine contains small black-and-white advertisements for hunting kits and the like." Some advertisements and some illustrations are part of Dragon Pursuit Today. The description of the illustrations is "You have the misfortune to look first at the photographs accompanying 'Cleaning Dragon Splanchna', and feel quite unwell." The description of the advertisements is "Mostly terse ads and phone numbers."
After looking under the carpet:
say "You pull again at the carpet. There is a tug, then a tearing, as the ancient fabric struggles against the fabric glue. Some of the carpet winds up in your hand and some of it remains in patchy threads adhering to the floor."
After entering the table:
say "You climb onto the small table, noticing belatedly that you are leaving muddy footprints on its polished surface. Oh well: you can wipe them away again when you get down."
The dragon head is scenery in the Waiting Suite. Understand "kit" or "mouth" as the dragon head. The description is "Its eyes are wide with bewildered surprise; its mouth gapes, its forked tongue protrudes indignantly. From down here it looks as though there's something shiny stuck in its mouth, though you can't tell for sure." The head contains a shiny thing. The description of the shiny thing is "Intriguing but impossible to see clearly." Instead of taking the shiny thing, try searching the dragon head.
Instead of embarrassing behavior:
if the player is nervous, now the player is embarrassed;
if the player is confident:
say "Before you can act, you hear movement from the inner office. You freeze, not quite ready to be discovered in this situation. But no one comes out, and you begin to breathe more easily.";
now the player is nervous;
continue the action.
Causing trouble is a scene. Causing trouble begins when play begins. Causing trouble ends when the player is embarrassed. When Causing trouble ends: say "Just at this inopportune moment, you hear a throat being cleared behind you. 'We can see you now within,' says a dry voice."; end the story saying "To be continued..."
...and this scene might lead to another, and so on.
The purpose of an open-ended scene like this might be puzzly or narrative: we might be waiting for the player to get a puzzle solved, or we might be waiting for him to fulfil some plot condition that must be met before we can go on.