§7.7. Saying Simple Things

There are times when even the commands ASK and TELL are overkill: sometimes the player doesn't have much information to offer, so TELL is never useful, for instance. If we don't want to make any distinction between modes of conversation, we can conflate the actions so that ASK LUCIUS ABOUT OLLIVANDER, TELL LUCIUS ABOUT OLLIVANDER and LUCIUS, OLLIVANDER all do the same thing: see Sybil 1.

If we are frequently permitting the player to say things like LUCIUS, OLLIVANDER as shorthand for "talk to Lucius about Ollivander", then we may also want to allow LUCIUS, OLLIVANDER? This makes the player character seem a bit slow (or at least Laconic), but it is an effective interface in some cases. The trick is that the question mark at the end of the command may prevent Inform from recognizing the keyword; should that problem arise, we may want to use Punctuation Removal to erase question marks from the player's command before attempting to interpret it.

Along the same lines, there are situations in conversation where similar commands do not correspond to the same actions within Inform; if we're careless about this, we may force the player to guess which vocabulary we want him to use, which is always vexing. Some cases to look out for:

Inform has actions for "saying yes" and "saying no". Sometimes this is useful, but sometimes we want YES and SAY YES TO FRED to do the same thing. Sybil 2 shows how to roll these responses into one; Proposal expands on the idea to show more ways in which a player could reasonably answer a question put by another character.

Again, if we want ASK SYBIL ABOUT CAKE to do the same thing as SHOW CAKE TO SYBIL, we might use the technique in Nameless to make objects into valid topics of conversation, and to make ASK and SHOW behave the same way.

Finally, if we want to be able to ASK and TELL an inanimate object -- say, a computer -- about something, we may use the extension Inanimate Listeners to add this capability.

* See Remembering, Converting and Combining Actions for ways to redirect one conversation command to another conversation topic

* See Varying What Is Read for a way of asking the player trivia questions that he can answer only on the next turn


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*ExampleSybil 1
Direct all ASK, TELL, and ANSWER commands to ASK, and accept multiple words for certain cases.

**ExampleSybil 2
Making the character understand YES, SAY YES TO CHARACTER, TELL CHARACTER YES, ANSWER YES, and CHARACTER, YES.

**ExampleProposal
Asking the player a yes/no question which he must answer, and another which he may answer or not as he chooses.

**ExampleNameless
ASKing someone about an object rather than about a topic.