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§18.31. Asking which do you mean

1. When it happens. When the player has typed an ambiguous noun reference, and Inform has not been able to decide what was meant.

2. The default behaviour. A question such as "Which do you mean, the laminated mahogany box or the boom box?" is printed. (This activity shapes the question: it is not responsible for parsing the answer. It would be very mysterious to write rules for this activity such that nothing is printed, because the player would then have no idea what to type.)

3. Examples. The question is harder to print than may first appear, since one must not simply list the options, but also take into account collections of plural objects ("Which do you mean, the gold-tipped pen or a gold coin?"). It is probably better not to try to rewrite this.

(a) But we can place notes before or after: here is a verbose explanation for beginners to IF.

Before asking which do you mean: say "Okay, so I'm going to have to ask a question now: you've typed something ambiguous, and I don't know which noun you're referring to."

After asking which do you mean: say "(Just type a word or two to give me more information.)"

(b) We can also use this activity as a context for other activities. For instance:

The Champs du Mars is a room. The great Eiffel Tower is here. "The great Tower stands high over you." The souvenir model Eiffel Tower is here. "Comparatively tiny is the souvenir version." The great Eiffel Tower is fixed in place. Understand "actual" as the great Tower.

Rule for printing the name of the great Tower while asking which do you mean: say "actual Tower". Rule for printing the name of the souvenir tower while asking which do you mean: say "souvenir".

causes TAKE TOWER (for instance) to produce a nice tidy question in reply: "Which do you mean, the actual Tower or the souvenir?"

4. A note about actions. This activity takes place during the process of understanding the player's command, when the action that will take place is not fully known. So if the player types "TAKE SHOEBOX", this activity would happen when SHOEBOX is being examined for meaning. Inform knows that the action will be taking, but nothing else. That means attaching a proviso like "... while taking a container" to a rule for this activity will cause the rule to have no effect - whereas "... while taking" would be fine.

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Prompting the player on how to disambiguate otherwise similar objects.

Allowing the player to create models of anything in the game world; parsing the name "model [thing]" or even just "[thing]" to refer to these newly-created models; asking "which do you mean, the model [thing] or the actual [thing]" when there is ambiguity.

***ExampleWalls and Noses
Responding to "EXAMINE WALL" with "In which direction?", and to "EXAMINE NOSE" with "Whose nose do you mean, Frederica's, Betty's, Wilma's or your own?"