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§13.16. What are relations for?

It is easy to say what verbs are for: they are to express relations. But what are relations for?

Inform 7's focus on relations between objects is unusual as an approach to interactive fiction; the concept does not exist in most design systems, or rather, it does but is submerged. Traditional design systems do, after all, have the spatial relations of being inside, on top of, and so on. It could well be said that these are the only relationships that inanimate objects ever have. A stone can be on top of a table, and if so then that expresses their entire association.

This is because the stone, and the table, have no opinions, emotions, knowledge or memory. If the stone is taken away and then put back, nothing has changed. People, on the other hand, tend to remember having met each other before; they like being in some places, but not others; their behaviour depends on who, or what, is nearby. Being conscious, they have internal states, unlike the stone. Relations are a simple but powerful way to express and talk about such connections, and although they have numerous uses in physical contexts too, they are at their most powerful when helping to make the characters of interactive fiction come alive.

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arrow-right.png Onward to Chapter 14: Adaptive Text and Responses: §14.1. Tense and narrative viewpoint

**ExampleMurder on the Orient Express
A number of sleuths (the player among them) find themselves aboard the Orient Express, where a murder has taken place, and one of them is apparently the culprit. Naturally they do not agree on whom, but there is physical evidence which may change their minds...

**ExampleWhat Not To Wear
A general-purpose clothing system that handles a variety of different clothing items layered in different combinations over different areas of the body.

***ExampleMathematical view of relations
Some notes on relations from a mathematical point of view, provided only to clarify some technicalities for those who are interested.

***ExampleGraph-theory view of relations
Some notes on relations from the point of view of graph theory.