TADS 3 Library: Instructions for new players
This module defines the INSTRUCTIONS command, which provides the player with an overview of how to play IF games in general. These instructions are especially designed as an introduction to IF for inexperienced players. The instructions given here are meant to be general enough to apply to most games that follow the common IF conventions.
This module defines the English version of the instructions.
In most cases, each author should customize these general-purpose instructions at least a little for the specific game. We provide a few hooks for some specific parameter-driven customizations that don't require modifying the original text in this file. Authors should also feel free to make more extensive customizations as needed to address areas where the game diverges from the common conventions described here.
One of the most important things you should do to customize these instructions for your game is to add a list of any special verbs or command phrasings that your game uses. Of course, you might think you'll be spoiling part of the challenge for the player if you do this; you might worry that you'll give away a puzzle if you don't keep a certain verb secret. Be warned, though, that many players - maybe even most - don't think "guess the verb" puzzles are good challenges; a lot of players feel that puzzles that hinge on finding the right verb or phrasing are simply bad design that make a game less enjoyable. You should think carefully about exactly why you don't want to disclose a particular verb in the instructions. If you want to withhold a verb because the entire puzzle is to figure out what command to use, then you have created a classic guess-the-verb puzzle, and most everyone in the IF community will feel this is simply a bad puzzle that you should omit from your game. If you want to withhold a verb because it's too suggestive of a particular solution, then you should at least make sure that a more common verb - one that you are willing to disclose in the instructions, and one that will make as much sense to players as your secret verb - can achieve the same result. You don't have to disclose every *accepted* verb or phrasing - as long as you disclose every *required* verb *and* phrasing, you will have a defense against accusations of using guess-the-verb puzzles.
You might also want to mention the "cruelty" level of the game, so that players will know how frequently they should save the game. It's helpful to point out whether or not it's possible for the player character to be killed; whether it's possible to get into situations where the game becomes "unwinnable"; and, if the game can become unwinnable, whether or not this will become immediately clear. The kindest games never kill the PC and are always winnable, no matter what actions the player takes; it's never necessary to save these games except to suspend a session for later resumption. The cruelest games kill the PC without warning (although if they offer an UNDO command from a "death" prompt, then even this doesn't constitute true cruelty), and can become unwinnable in ways that aren't readily and immediately apparent to the player, which means that the player could proceed for quite some time (and thus invest substantial effort) after the game is already effectively lost. Note that unwinnable situations can often be very subtle, and might not even be intended by the author; for example, if the player needs a candle to perform an exorcism at some point, but the candle can also be used for illumination in dark areas, the player could make the game unwinnable simply by using up the candle early on while exploring some dark tunnels, and might not discover the problem until much further into the game.