AskTopic : AskTellTopic
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An AskTopic is used to respond to an ASK ABOUT command, e.g. ASK SARAH ABOUT RING. Rather than overriding actionIobjAskAbout on the sarah object, we can nest a number of AskTopic objects either in Sarah or in one of Sarah's ActorStates. To avoid the response becoming repetitive, it's often a good idea to combine an AskTopic with some kind of EventList - often a StopEventList - which gives several different responses before finally coming to one that's repeated.

One thing a player will often want to ask about an NPC is the NPC him/herself. To handle ASK SARAH ABOUT HERSELF we don't need to define some strange kind of herself object, we just treat it as equivalent to ASK SARAH ABOUT SARAH. Here is how we might define an appropriate AskTopic to put in the sarahTalking : InConversationState.

++ AskTopic, StopEventList @sarah
  [ {: "<q>What brings you here?</q> you wonder,\b
     <q>I was just taking a walk in the valley when some madman snatched my ring
     off me and ran in here, shouting at me to come and find it if I wanted it
     back.</q> she tells you, <q>So I followed him in. Now I
     just want to find my ring and get out of here.</q><<gSetKnown(diamondRing)>>" },
    {: "<q>And you are...?</q> you ask.\b
       <q><<sarah.makeProper>>,</q> she tells you, <q>My name's Sarah. Pleased
       to meet you - and I'll be even more pleased if you help me find my ring.</q>" },
      '<q>So you you\'ve never been in these caves before?</q> you ask.\b
       <q>No, never,</q> she replies, <q>and I wouldn\'t be here now if my ring
        hadn\'t been stolen. Caves aren\'t really my thing, though these
        aren\'t at all what I expected!</q> she nods towards the lake and the
        ship, and a pensive expression crosses her face, <q>I suppose it might
        be interesting to explore - but I really should get back.</q>',
      '<q>What are you so anxious to get back to?</q> you ask.\b
       <q>Fresh air and open sky, for a start!</q> she laughs. '              

Note that Sarah's first response mentions her ring. Up to that point the player knows nothing about the ring, and so cannot refer to it in conversation; even if a TopicEntry is defined that matches the ring, it won't be activated until the player knows about the ring. One way the player can get to know about the ring is by the player character actually seeing it, but another is through being told about it as here. In order to achieve this we use the gSetKnown(diamondRing) macro, which actually translated into gPlayerChar.setKnowsAbout(obj). Likewise, Sarah's second response reveals her name, so we use the custom makeProper method both to make the appropriate changes on the Sarah object and to return her proper name. Both methods can be called using the <<>> syntax within a double-quoted string, but we can't use a double-quoted string directly in an EventList. We can, however, use a function pointer, and that function pointer can be returned from an anonymous function declaration, and we can use the shortform syntax to declare it. Thus we can use {: "Here's a double-quoted string" } as a shorthand way of writing new Function { "Here's a double-quoted string"; }. Note that in the short form we don't put a semi-colon after the closing double-quote mark.

Since Sarah's answer clearly invites a question about the ring, this is the next thing we should cater for:

++ AskTopic, StopEventList @diamondRing
  [ '<q>What does your ring look like?</q> you ask.\b
     <q>It\'s a plain platinum band with a solitaire diamond.</q> she tells you. ',

    '<q>This ring - it\'s important to you?</q> you inquire.\b
     <q>Oh yes!</q> {the sarah/she} declares, <q>It\'s not it\'s monetary value, so
     much; it\'s more a sentimental thing - you can\'t replace that with insurance
     money. Besides, I was so <i>incensed</i> when this bloke snatched it off me -
     why should he get away with it?</q>',

     new function {
       "<q>Have you any idea where your ring might be?</q> you ask.\b
       <q>Perhaps he dropped it back in there,</q> she suggests, nodding towards
        the open door,<q>let's go and see.</q><.p>";

     '<q>And the missing ring...</q> you begin.\b
      <q>... is a plain platinum band with a solitaire diamond.</q> she reminds you. '

Note the new function in the event list; this finally sets Sarah off on her brief guided tour, from which she'll arrive back where she started having accomplished nothing.

The player may also ask Sarah about herself when she starts following the player character around, so we need to put an appropriate AskTopic under the sarahFollowing state. We also need to cater for the possibility that the player has not yet discovered Sarah's name:

+ sarahFollowing : AccompanyingState

++ AskTopic, StopEventList @sarah
  [ '<q>So, what you do when you\'re not looking for missing rings?</q> you ask.\b
     <q>Oh, nothing important,</q> she replies, <q>I\'m just a freelance journalist.</q>',
    '<q>Have you come up with many interesting scoops?</q> you wonder.\b
     <q>Now <i>that</i> would be telling.</q> she replies mysteriously. '
+++ AltTopic
  "<q>What's your name, by the way?</q> you wonder.\b
   <q>I'm <<getActor.makeProper>>,</q> she tells you with a warm smile. "
  isActive = (!sarah.isProperName)

Something else the player may ask about is the ghost. It doesn't make sense to discuss the ghost unless both Sarah and the player character have encountered it. The library will take care of putting a ghost topic out of reach until the player character knows about the ghost, but we will want to add an isActive condition to make the topic unreachable unless Sarah has also seen it. Moreover, we'll want to allow for the fact that the way the ghost is discussed is likely to be rather different if it's still present at the time, which we'll do by means of an AltTopic. Again, we nest all this in the sarahFollowing state (since in order to have seen the ghost, Sarah must be following the player character).

++ AskTopic, StopEventList @ghost
  '<q>What did you make of that ghost?</q> you ask.\b
   <q>Scary,</q> she announces, <q>Definitely scary. But I suppose I might be
    a bit upset if someone had just pushed my statue over - especially if I was
   '<q>So you think it definitely was a ghost we saw in the churchyard?</q> you enquire.\b
    <q>Definitely.</q> {the sarah/she} nods vigorously, <q>Didn\'t you see the way it
    just <i>appeared</i> from that tomb - and then vanished away again?</q>\b',
   '<q>What that ghost said - about a sacred task and a golden banana. Is that something
    we should take seriously, do you think?</q> you ask.\b
    <q>Something <i>we</i> should take seriously?</q> {the sarah/she} replies, cocking
    one eyebrow, <q>It was <i>you</i> he was talking to!</q> Then, seeing your look
    of despair, she gives a little laugh and continues, <q>Come on, then, let\'s go and
    find that banana - we can\'t have you being haunted by a toppled statue for the
    rest of your life!</q>',
   '<q>So you think we\'d better take the ghost seriously.</q> you conclude.\b
    <q>Yes,</q> she says, <q>I do.</q> '
  isActive = (getActor.hasSeen(ghost))

+++ AltTopic
  "<q>Is that really what I think it is?</q> you whisper.\b
   <q>Yes!</q> she whispers back."
  isActive = (ghost.isIn(getActor.location))

We might also want to cover the case in which a sceptical Sarah has been told about the ghost but hasn't seen it for herself (how that comes about will be dealt with in more detail when we come look at examples of TellTopic). In this case we can nest the AskTopic inside the sarah object instead of one of her ActorStates, since we'll want this group of replies to be used whichever ActorState Sarah happens to be in. The player character (PC) could sail off in the ship, encounter the ghost, then return to tell and ask Sarah about it, all without giving Sarah the ring that makes her follow him, or he could give Sarah the ring between encountering the ghost and trying to discuss it with Sarah.

+ AskTopic, ShuffledEventList @ghost
  [ '<q>You don\'t believe it was a ghost I saw, do you?</q> you ask.\b
    <q>No - of course not!</q> {the sarah/she} chuckles, <q>I mean, a
    ghost! They don\'t exist - every sensible person knows that!</q>' ]
  [ '<q>So you think I\'m lying about the ghost?</q> you ask.\b
     <q>No,</q> she replies carefully, <q>But I think you must be mistaken.</q> ',
    '<q>So, what do you think I saw?</q> you demand.\b
     <q>A trick of the light maybe?</q> she suggests, <q>Or maybe you ate
     too much green cheese last night? Or graveyards bring out the over-
     active imagination in you?</q>',
     '<q>If it wasn\'t a ghost I saw, who or what was it told me about
     the golden banana and the cabal?</q> you ask.\b
     <q>A ghost that burbles about bananas and cabals?</q> she retorts,
     <q>Oh come on! You\'re just having me on!</q>',
     '<q>I\'m sure I did see a ghost, you know.</q> you insist, <q>Do I
     strike you as the sort of person who imagines or invents things?</q>\b
      <q>Not normally, perhaps.</q> {the sarah/she} concedes, <q>Perhaps
     someone was playing a trick on you? A holographic projection? A prankster
     in a sheet? This whole place seems a bit tricky to me!</q>' 
   isActive = (getActor.knowsAbout(ghost))

Once again we apply an isActive condition; this discussion can only take place if Sarah knows about the ghost (because the player character has told her of his encounter with it). Note that if Sarah has actually seen the ghost for herself, the responses we defined previously for that eventuality will automatically override those defined just above if Sarah has seen the ghost, since a TopicEntry (even if it's only a DefaultTopic) in the current ActorState always takes precedence over one in the Actor.

So far our AskTopics have all concerned single game objects, but we can also create topics which can be asked (or told) about. For example, we might want to ask the curator about the museum, so we could create a suitable topic object:

tMuseum : Topic 'museum';

Furthermore, we might want to make asking the curator about the museum and asking him about himself effectively the same. So instead of defining an AskTopic with a single object referenced by @ in its template, we can create it with a list of objects the AskTopic will match:

++ AskTopic, StopEventList [curator, tMuseum]
   [ {: "<q>Are you in charge here?</q> you ask.\b
        <q>That's right, I'm <<curator.makeProper>>, the curator of this
        museum.</q> he replies with an evident air of self-importance. " },
     '<q>Have you been curator here long?</q> you wonder.\b
      <q>Only for the last twenty years.</q> he replies. ',
     '<q>Do you get many visitors to this museum?</q> you wonder.\b
      <q>One or two.</q> he replies, <q>After all, it\'s not as if many
      people live round here.</q>',     
     '<q>Are you interested in acquiring more exhibits?</q> you enquire.\b
      <q>Naturlich - if they are of the right sort.</q> he tells you. '

Clearly, this AskTopic must be nested inside the curatorTalking state, not inside the tMuseum topic object, so be careful where you position it in your code! The same applies to the following:

++ AskTopic, StopEventList @tBenefactor
    '<q>Who are the benefactors?</q> you ask.\b
     <q>Why, people who have been especially generous to the museum,
      of course.</q> {the curator/he} tells you, in the tone of one
      explaining the absolutely blindingly obvious. ',
    '<q>So how does one become a benefactor?</q> you wonder.\b
     <q>Well,</q> he says, <q>one way would be to procure our most
      wanted acquisition of the month for us.</q>',
    '<q>So if I wanted to become a benefactor...</q> you begin,\b
     <q>Just bring us the exhibit we are most keen to acquire
      just now.</q> {the curator/he} reminds you, <q>We publish
      the details on our monthly flyer.</q>'
  isActive = gRevealed('benefactors')

For which we also need to define:

tBenefactor : Topic 'benefactor/benefactors';