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§3.2. Rooms and the map
Rooms are joined together at their edges by "map connections", most of which are pathways in one of the eight cardinal compass directions: north, northeast (written without a hyphen), east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest. We also have up and down, suitable for staircases or ladders. In real life, people are seldom conscious of their compass bearing when walking around buildings, but it makes a concise and unconfusing way for the player to say where to go next, so is generally accepted as a convention of the genre.
Two more directions are provided by Inform: "inside" and "outside". These are best used when one location is, say, a meadow and the other is a woodcutter's hut in the middle of it; we might then say
Inside from the Meadow is the woodcutter's hut.
The "from" is important, as it clarifies that we intend to link two different locations, not to create an item - the hut - in a single location - the meadow.
A problem which sometimes arises when laying out maps is that Inform allows short forms of room names to be used as abbreviations. This is usually a good idea, but has unfortunate results if we write:
The Airport Road is west of the Fish Packing Plant. The Airport is west of the Airport Road.
...because "Airport" is taken as a reference to "Airport Road", so Inform makes only two locations, one of which supernaturally leads to itself. We can avoid this by writing:
The Airport Road is west of the Fish Packing Plant. A room called the Airport is west of the Airport Road.
Using "called" is often a good way to specify something whose name might give rise to confusion otherwise. It always makes something new, and it is also neatly concise, because we can establish something's kind and name in the same sentence. As another example, suppose we want to create a room called "South of the Hut", to south of the Hut. We can't do so like this:
South of the Hut is a room. South of the Hut is south of the Hut.
...because Inform will read that first sentence as placing a (nameless) room to the south of a room called "Hut". Once again "called" can save the day:
South of the Hut is a room called South of the Hut.
It is best to use "called" in the simplest way possible, and in particular, best not to use "called" twice in the same sentence. Consider:
The kitchen cabinet contains a container called a mixing bowl and a portable supporter called a platter.
It is unlikely that anyone would want to name something "a mixing bowl and a portable supporter called a platter", but not impossible, and Inform tends not to be a good judge of what is likely.
(If we really want to get rid of this issue once and for all, starting the source text with the use option "Use unabbreviated object names." will do it, but the effect is drastic. This instructs Inform not to recognise names other than in full. For example:
West of the Kitchen is the Roaring Range. South of the Range is the Pantry.
is ordinarily read by Inform as constructing three rooms (Kitchen, Roaring Range, Pantry); but with this use option set, it makes four (Kitchen, Roaring Range, Range, Pantry), in two disconnected pieces of map. Handle with care.)
Port Royal 1
Fort James is a room. "The enclosure of Fort James is a large, roughly hexagonal court walled with heavy stone. The walls face the entrance to Port Royal Harbour, and the battery of guns is prepared to destroy any enemy ship arriving."
Unless we arrange otherwise, this will be the first room in the game because it is the first we have defined.
For subsequent rooms, we do not have to say explicitly that they are rooms, as long as they are connected to a room on the map. For instance, this will automatically make Thames Street End a room:
Thames Street End is south of Fort James. "The ill-named Thames Street runs from here -- at the point of the peninsula -- all the way east among houses and shops, through the Fish Market, edging by the round front of Fort Carlisle, to the point where the town stops and there is only sandy spit beyond. Lime Street, wider and healthier but not as rich, runs directly south, and to the north the road opens up into the courtyard of Fort James."
Water Lane runs south toward Queen Street, and facing onto it is the New Prison -- which, in the way of these things, is neither. It did serve in that capacity for a time, and in a measure of the villainy which has been usual in Port Royal from its earliest days, it is nearly the largest building in the town."
If we have some concern that the room name will be confused with an existing name, we can be more explicit about it using "called":
East of Water Lane is a room called Thames Street at the Wherry Bridge. Thames Street at the Wherry Bridge has the description "To the southwest is the fishmarket; directly across the street is the entrance to a private alley through a brick archway."
The Private Alley is south of Thames Street at the Wherry Bridge. "You're just outside the tavern the Feathers. To the north, under a pretty little archway, is the active mayhem of Thames Street, but the alley narrows down to a dead end a little distance to the south."
And now we get "inside", which generates a space treated as its own area on the map.
The Feathers is inside from the Private Alley. "Newly built with brick, replacing the older Feathers tavern that used to stand here. It sells wines in quantity, as well as serving them directly, and the goods are always of the best quality. There's a room upstairs for those wanting to stay the night." The Feathers Bedroom is above the Feathers.
And if we like we can declare a number of rooms for which we will come back and write the descriptions later. There is no obligation for the description to occur at the first definition of the room.
For efficiency, we can also write multiple sets of connections at once:
Clicking Go will translate this description into a sketchy but working simulation of Port Royal, in which we can type movement commands like EAST or SOUTH to explore the streets. Looking at the World tab of the Index, we can also see a schematic map of the simulation as it currently stands. Like the rest of the Index, this is provided entirely for the author's benefit, and is not visible to the player. (Though if we do decide that we want players to have access to a printed map while they play, Inform can help: we will return to the layout of Port Royal in the chapter on Publishing.)
The following Test command allows us to type TEST ME and explore the map we just devised:
Up and Up
Sometimes when a player moves from one room to another, we want to imply that a considerable amount of time elapses, or that something interesting occurs on the way. In that case, we might want to print more than just the room description itself. Here is how we might define a couple of rooms that are far apart:
The Plain of the Skull is below the Endless Tower. The description of the Plain of the Skull is "A vast and trackless plain, enlivened only by the bones of those who have previously tried and failed to cross. Above you is the Endless Tower, which rises half-way to the moon."
The description of the Endless Tower is "From up here the Plain of the Skull seems only a small bald patch: the world is round and most of it is covered with trees. Far off to the southwest is a shimmering surface that might be water; but there are no signs of cities or civilizations, only the lizard-skeletons."
And now we borrow from the instructions on Actions to create our actual message. "Before..." introduces a rule that occurs when the player tries to do something; in this case, we will make a Before rule for going to the tower.
The player carries a bit of harness. The description of the harness is "A strip of worked leather and a loop of metal, scavenged from one of the skeletons on the plain. Without it, you might think your entire quest was in vain."
Sometimes we may want a room to be visible from the outside in one location, but treated as a separate location when we are inside. The simplest way to do this is to make the exterior form of the object into a door object, and to describe it differently from different vantage points. (Doors in general are described more fully in the Doors section of the Things chapter.)
The magician's booth is a door. "[if the player is in Center Ring]A magician's booth stands in the corner, painted dark blue with glittering gold stars.[otherwise if the magician's booth is closed]A crack of light indicates the way back out to the center ring.[otherwise]The door stands open to the outside.[end if]".
Here we've arranged for the booth to be described in the initial room description in different ways depending on where the player is when viewing it. We might like to do the same if the player takes a closer look:
Instead of examining the magician's booth in the Center Ring:
say "It is dark blue and glittering with gold stars. [if the booth is open]The door currently stands open[otherwise]It has been firmly shut[end if]."
And now we put it in place:
...and make sure that the booth-and-door object responds to all the names we have used for it in different places:
A final nice touch, if we're so inclined, is to borrow from the Basic Actions chapter and make the player automatically open the booth door before trying to enter:
For the contrasting case of a space that is nested inside another place and is not its own room -- say a stall at an open-air market, or a rowboat on a lake -- see the example "Tamed".