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"Direction" is a kind which is quite unlike most of those seen so far. While it has to do with the physical world, a direction does not exactly belong to it. One cannot find "southeast" sitting on a shelf. "Direction" is not a kind of thing, nor a kind of room: it is a kind in its own right.
Every direction has an "opposite" property, which is always another direction. These occur in matched pairs. The opposite of north is south, just as the opposite of south is north. The opposite of southeast is northwest, the opposite of inside is outside, and so on. When Inform reads a sentence like...
Bangkok is south of Nakhon Sawan.
...it assumes that the opposite map connection is probably also valid, so that
Nakhon Sawan is north of Bangkok.
The chapter began with the twelve directions built into Inform:
north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest, up, down, inside, outside
But the built-in set is not always appropriate. Sometimes this is too many; if we wanted to write about a Flatland, for instance, then up and down ought to go. But in practice it is better not to abolish them as directions but instead to forbid travelling in them. (See the Recipe Book for examples.)
But away from our familiar Earth, the usual frame of reference loses its meaning. Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" comedies, set on a rotating disc, use the directions turnwise, widdershins, hubwards and rimwards. On board a Zeppelin airship, which constantly changes its course, the cockpit has no fixed compass bearing from the passenger cabin: it is not very naturally "north". In zero gravity, there is no up or down. Mars does not have a magnetic core, so a compass doesn't work there.
New directions must always be created in opposing pairs, and each must be declared with a clear simple sentence of the form "X is a direction." For instance:
Turnwise is a direction. The opposite of turnwise is widdershins.
Widdershins is a direction. The opposite of widdershins is turnwise.
Hubwards is a direction. The opposite of hubwards is rimwards.
Rimwards is a direction. The opposite of rimwards is hubwards.
It is then possible to write, say, that:
Ankh-Morpork is hubwards of Lancre and turnwise from Borogravia.
Of course the Map page of the Index for the project normally draws a map based on compass bearings, so it will get a little befuddled by this. But the map drawn in the Index can be given hints to improve its legibility. More on this later, but for now note that
Index map with turnwise mapped as east.
maps turnwise directions as if they were east, that is, pointing rightwards on the page. (This has no effect on the story file produced; it does not mean turnwise is simply a new name for east; it affects only the look of the Index map, which is only a convenience for the author in any case.)
At one time, directions had to have shortish names (up to three words only), but that's no longer true:
Just the tiniest smidge off magnetic north is a direction. The opposite of
just the tiniest smidge off magnetic north is just the tiniest smidge
off magnetic south.
Just the tiniest smidge off magnetic south is a direction. The opposite of
just the tiniest smidge off magnetic south is just the tiniest smidge
off magnetic north.
|Start of Chapter 3: Things|
|Back to §3.25. The location of something|
|Onward to Chapter 4: Kinds: §4.1. New kinds|
We can change the directions in the map in mid-game, though in practice this is rarely necessary. But suppose we do not want a door or any sign of a door to exist before the player takes some action, in this case pressing a button:
Challenger's Waiting Room is a room. "The challenge is this: to wait as long as you can endure to do so in a room with no features and no clock. If you wait longer than all the other contestants, you win."
Instead of pushing the button for the first time:
change the east exit of the Challenger's Waiting Room to Amid the Cheering Throng;
change the west exit of the Cheering Throng to the Challenger's Waiting Room;
say "With a groan of gears, the east wall swings open! If you've lost now, well, you've lost..."
Our instructions about pushing the button will be further explained in the chapter on Actions, but the thing to note here is that we can "change (whatever) exit" in order to set or re-set map directions. Notice that we have to set both directions explicitly: changing the east exit of the Waiting Room does not automatically also change the west exit of Amid the Cheering Throng.
This allows greater flexibility in our games but does require an extra line or so of work.
The World of Charles S. Roberts
Wargaming is an ancient pursuit, but its modern form began as a professional training exercise in 19th-century Prussian staff colleges; since at least as early as H. G. Wells's "Little Wars" (1913) it has been a hobby of "boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books." The free-form tabletop game used miniature figures and tape-measured movements, and remains the dominant form today. But in the mid-20th century, map grids on printed sheets gave the hobby a sudden new lease of life. They were easier to set up, more interesting to look at, cheaper to sell by mail-order. 1970s sales figures for "Strategy and Tactics", the leading US subscription-based wargame distributor, were very similar to those of Infocom's IF games in the 1980s. And like classical IF, the grid-based wargame parceled up a continuous world into locations.
Grids were initially square, as on a chessboard, but square cells have several disadvantages. Four directions of movement (N, E, S, W) is too few, yet allowing movement in the diagonal directions means allowing tanks to travel about 1.4 times faster northeast than they do north. Square grids also only conform cleanly to man-made landscape features such as buildings in one orientation, and they never fit hills well. (A compromise measure to fix this, cutting the squares into octagons to leave smaller diamond squares at corner intersections, has never caught on.)
But following Charles S. Roberts's American Civil War designs for Avalon Hill of 1958-61 (notably "Chancellorsville" and the second edition of "Gettysburg"), a hexagonal grid became the new standard. Each hexagon is the same distance from the centre of all six of its neighbours, which are at equal angular spacings; and clumps of hexagons fit the shape of lakes, contoured hills, and so forth, much more naturally than clumps of squares do. Hexes also have a certain mystique - an air of "I don't belong in the children's department".
But hexes are tricky for IF, not least because English lacks words for "the direction 60 degrees around from front". Our cognitive view of the world tends to be square, perhaps because our two eyes both face front, in a direction at right angles to the plane of our arms, legs, pelvis and eyes. We reach out sideways at right angles to our walking. Even early hex-grid wargames called the cells "squares", though "hexes" eventually caught on. Still and all:
Forward is a direction. Forward has opposite backward. Understand "f" as forward.
Backward is a direction. Backward has opposite forward. Understand "b" and "back" as backward.
Forward left is a direction. Forward left has opposite backward right. Understand "fl" as forward left.
Forward right is a direction. Forward right has opposite backward left. Understand "fr" as forward right.
Backward left is a direction. Backward left has opposite forward right. Understand "bl" as backward left.
Backward right is a direction. Backward right has opposite forward left. Understand "br" as backward right.
Now to forbid the use of the compass directions:
A slight nuisance is that, with things as they are above, typing BACKWARD produces the response "Which do you mean, backward, backward left or backward right?" To avoid that silly question, we write:
And now a clump of 37 hexes, in six columns of six or seven rooms each. There are many ingenious ways we could put this map together automatically, but instead we will take a deep breath and write:
E1 is forward of E2. "Open farmland." E2 is forward of E3. "The edge of woods." E3 is forward of E4. "Deep woodland." E4 is forward of E5. "Deep woodland." E5 is forward of E6. "The rear edge of woods." E6 is forward of E7. "The start of a road leading forward right." E7 is a room. "Grassland."
F1 is forward of F2. "The edge of farmland." F2 is forward of F3. "The edge of woods." F3 is forward of F4. "Clearing in woods." F4 is forward of F5. "Deep woodland." F5 is forward of F6. "A road runs backward left to forward right." F6 is a room. "The edge of grassland."
G1 is forward of G2. "Grassland." G2 is forward of G3. "The edge of farmland." G3 is forward of G4. "A copse of trees." G4 is forward of G5. "The backward edge of woodland." G5 is forward of G6. "A bend in the road, from backward left to backward right." G6 is forward of G7. "Open farmland." G7 is a room. "Open farmland."
H1 is forward of H2. "Grassland, bordered by a hedge to the right." H2 is forward of H3. "The edge of farmland, with a hedge to forward right." H3 is forward of H4. "A copse of trees." H4 is forward of H5. "Open farmland." H5 is forward of H6. "A passing place on the road, which bends forward left to forward right." H6 is a room. "Open farmland."
I1 is forward of I2. "The end of a forward road, blocked by hedges on all sides except backward." I2 is forward of I3. "A straight road runs forward to backward, with long hedges to left and right." I3 is forward of I4. "A straight road runs forward to backward, alongside a long hedge to right." I4 is forward of I5. "A straight road runs forward to backward, alongside a long hedge to right." I5 is forward of I6. "Where three roads, forward, backward left and backward right, meet. Forward right is a thick hedge." I6 is forward of I7. "Open farmland." I7 is a room. "Open farmland."
J1 is forward of J2. "Dense woodland, with a hedge to left." J2 is forward of J3. "Grassland, with a hedge to left." J3 is forward of J4. "The edge of farmland, with a hedge to left." J4 is a room. "Open farmland, with a long hedge blocking movement forward left, backward left or backward." J5 is forward of J6. "A road running forward left to backward right, alongside a hedge." J6 is a room. "Open farmland."
F1 is forward right of E2 and backward right of E1. F2 is forward right of E3 and backward right of E2. F3 is forward right of E4 and backward right of E3. F4 is forward right of E5 and backward right of E4. F5 is forward right of E6 and backward right of E5. F6 is forward right of E7 and backward right of E6.
G1 is forward right of F1. G2 is forward right of F2 and backward right of F1. G3 is forward right of F3 and backward right of F2. G4 is forward right of F4 and backward right of F3. G5 is forward right of F5 and backward right of F4. G6 is forward right of F6 and backward right of F5.
H1 is forward right of G2 and backward right of G1. H2 is forward right of G3 and backward right of G2. H3 is forward right of G4 and backward right of G3. H4 is forward right of G5 and backward right of G4. H5 is forward right of G6 and backward right of G5. H6 is forward right of G7 and backward right of G6.
I3 is forward right of H3 and backward right of H2. I4 is forward right of H4 and backward right of H3. I5 is forward right of H5 and backward right of H4. I6 is forward right of H6 and backward right of H5.
And now we have a hexagonally-gridded world. Route-finding will work; prepositional forms like "to be mapped backward left of" exist, just as they should; and in general these directions are just as good as the square ones. (The only thing which doesn't look good is the Index map, where Inform is just unable to draw a picture because it assumes a square grid. But that has no effect on play.)
The landscape is much easier to navigate with a little diagram:
Carry out looking:
say "[fixed letter spacing] \ [legend forward] /[line break][legend forward left] ---- [legend forward right][line break] / \[line break]--< [location] >--[line break] \ /[line break][legend backward left] ---- [legend backward right][line break] / [legend backward] \[variable letter spacing][line break]".
Suppose we want to understand shipboard directions, but only when the player is aboard a vessel.
And we can even add new ways to talk about the ways things are mapped, borrowing from the Relations chapter. The following will allow us to use "is abaft of" as well as "is aft of":
Now, to prevent the player from using NORTH onboard ship, or AFT on land:
A room can be nautical or earthbound. A room is usually not nautical. A direction can be nautical or earthbound. A direction is usually not nautical. Starboard, port, fore, aft, up, down, the inside and the outside are nautical.
The description of the Fish Room is "Absurd quantities of salt fish are kept here, and periodically visited by the cook or someone serving him. It is otherwise an unexceptional little chamber, so far below the waterline that there are no portholes and no external light of any kind. [paragraph break]A narrow doorway leads forward into the Spirit Room, and the After Powder Magazine is starboard."
The description of the Spirit Room is "Despite its ghostly name, this is little more than a closet down at the very navel of the ship, in which alcohol is kept: both for purifying wounds and for drinking. Under normal circumstances there is a guard posted here at every hour, lest anyone take to raiding the larder. The current absence of the guard marine strikes you as a very bad sign indeed. [paragraph break]The only way out is aft."
The description of the Bread Room is "The Bread Room is not only tiny from side to side and front to back: it is also about half the height of a proper room, and the floor slopes up very steeply with the curve of the hull. [paragraph break]What is kept here would not, on land, be dignified by the name of bread: it's hard tack, punishing to the teeth, dry on the tongue, and usually a home to weevils before half the journey is done. [paragraph break]More headroom, and access to the rest of the ship, lies fore through the After Powder Magazine."
The description of the After Powder Magazine is "Kept in near darkness because no one with any sense would bring a naked flame down here: when necessary, it can be lit with a single small lantern made of very thick glass and sealed to keep the sparks within. Sacks of powder are passed up into the higher levels of the ship by the scrubby little boys called 'powder monkeys' -- but none such are here now."