Example 288

Creating a new command that does require an object to be named; and some comments about the choice of vocabulary, in general.

If we wanted to define a brand new verb that did affect a specific object, we might begin like this:

Understand "hydrolyze [something]" as hydrolyzing. Hydrolyzing is an action applying to one thing.
Carry out hydrolyzing:
   say "[The noun] cannot be hydrolyzed."
Instead of hydrolyzing the xylan:
   move the xylose to the holder of the xylan;
   now the xylan is nowhere;
   say "At once the xylan becomes xylose."
Plant Cell Wall is a room.
There is a xylose sample. The xylan sample is a thing in Plant Cell Wall. The description of the xylan is "A polysaccharide. Totally useless. If only you had some xylose, instead!" The description of the xylose is "Awesome!"
Test me with "x xylan / hydrolyze xylan / x xylose".

Of course, how our players will ever solve this problem is another question (especially if their biology and chemistry are both rusty). When adding entirely new commands to a game, it is often a good idea to provide as many ways of phrasing the command as possible; to drop hints about the correct phrasing within the game's text; or even to tell the player about the expanded command list in some documentation or help at the beginning of the game. So for instance we might also add

Understand "break down [something] with water" or "break [something] down with water" as hydrolyzing.

And these lines will also provide syntax for our new command, without interfering with the previous syntax. It's also good to anticipate alternative (British or American) spellings. People's typing habits are hard to overcome, even if they know you are spelling the word the other way. It is probably best not to annoy them unduly. So:

Understand "hydrolyse [something]" as hydrolyzing.

Then some text in-game might offer a clue, subtle or (since this is an example) blunt:

Instead of examining the player, say "You're a drop of water, which means that you can break down certain chemicals!"
Understand "break down [something]" or "break [something] down" as hydrolyzing.

And finally, we could try adding instructions explicitly:

Understand "help" or "hint" or "hints" or "instructions" or "info" or "about" as asking for help. Asking for help is an action out of world. Carry out asking for help: say "The following commands are understood, in addition to the standard ones: EVAPORATE, FREEZE, HYDROLYZE, SUBLIME..."
Test more with "help / x me / break down xylan"
Test me with "x xylan / hydrolyze xylan / x xylose".
Plant Cell Wall
You can see a xylan sample here.


>[1] x xylan
A polysaccharide. Totally useless. If only you had some xylose, instead!

>[2] hydrolyze xylan
At once the xylan becomes xylose.

>[3] x xylose

…though of course in fact these other commands won't be available until we define them, too.

This last approach, defining all the extra commands up front, is especially useful if these commands are very technical or unusual; if they are needed early in the game, before you've a chance to educate the player; or if they are not suggested by any in-game objects. A player who encounters a tool with an obvious use, such as a hairbrush, will likely think of trying to BRUSH things with it. It's harder to rely on his guessing actions that are both outside the range of usual commands and unrelated to any of the visible props, however.