In-line hints vs. separate hint menu

As an author or a player of parser games, which format do you prefer for hints, and why? If you use Inform 7, do you have any favorite extensions for hints?

Not sure what you mean by in-line hints, but my favourite sort of hint is definitely the in-game sort where consulting the hints doesn’t feel like cheating. First example that springs to mind is the “snitch” in Dangerous Curves. Edifice also had a nice system. And though Curses breaks almost every item in the Player’s Bill of Rights, it had a nifty hinting system in the form of a demon (and apparently an angel I never met).

If it’s a separate menu, once I give in and start reading the first hint, I’ll always find it very hard to stop myself from returning again and again.

It’s also not unusual for me to read hints of things I’ve already solved to make sure, before moving on, that I didn’t miss something crucial. In some Infocom games, this is almost standard procedure - read the hints after the fact, just to make sure.

I’m a fan of in-game hints. I’m working on an extension that’'ll allow HINT (OBJECT) but also allow you to just type HINT. This will also allow the game to redirect the player if they’re nowhere near where they need to be. Also, I killed the disambiguation so you don’t hint something you didn’t mean to.

Inform lets you print progressive hints pretty easily with one of/or. So I just have something like

Did you look at the sofa? (+)

Did you try searching? (+)

You’ll need the coat hanger to pull out the ring lost there. (-) (means cycling)

And if you are really clever, you can find a way to actually build the hints into the game world itself - such as a magic compass that points you toward the location you need to go, or a fortune teller machine that gives cryptic advice based on behind the scenes info of what the player needs to do next, or graffiti on the wall of a phone number that when dialed on an in-game phone is the Frobozz Hint Line.

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Generally speaking, I lean towards hint menus myself. Ideally, in a linear game, the hint options will be catered towards the current situation as others have suggested; the biggest downside to hint menus is how often they list things the player isn’t even aware of yet. Hanon’s right that it’s cool when the hint system can be integrated well into the game world, though.

I’d take a look at several of the available hint menu libraries (I assume there are several). Some may look better in multiple interpreters.

Hints given in-world are probably the most fun for the player. But aside from that, I’d like to be able to set it up so that you could type “hint” and get a numbered list of currently available hint topics, choose one, and then get progressive hints without ever clearing the screen. Something like Adaptive Hints by Eric Eve, but without going to a separate menu.

I had a way to look at what items still needed to be tinkered with in Roiling Original and Shuffling Around–they were different for each game. In RO, it was SS (shake and swirl a certain hint object) and in SA you had glean and angle. Both were put in in maintenance releases.

I wonder if there might be a use for HINTBLOCK (# of turns) to block yourself from a hint for the next X turns. Maybe you could have the option of forcing the game to save, too.

I like the idea of a hint-list, though that in itself might be a bit of a spoiler. It seems there are so many possibilities and verbs out there.

Hm, I had a re-think, and I’d like to try this.

HINT would be the basic top-level command. It would search for a list of viable hint topics/chains. If there is only one, that is printed automatically. If not, the game tries to disambiguate.

If the game needs to disambiguate, HINT 1 will be necessary.

H will be the command to reveal the next hint. The game will show all hints in the topic up to that point, though this may be changed with settings later.

The big reasons for HINT vs. H is

  1. without H, it might not be clear if HINT is to get the next hint or to get a hint-list
  2. if someone wants a hint, they want it now. They don’t want to have to work through a menu or punch too many keys.

This is the bare bones I’m throwing out as a concept.

Stuff like collapsible hints (e.g. if there is a long puzzle, or if you completed part of the puzzle before getting the hint, you won’t see hints in the chain that no longer apply) would be neat and snazzy, along with options, but I don’t want to mess with that til the basic idea works. Anyone think this makes sense? It seems like it is more immersive than Eric Eve’s Adaptive Hints, if less flashy.