Suggestion about this pointless > thing


Just kill it, get rid of the corpse under tons of muddy earth.

Seriously, it’s a relic from a time when the primary means of interaction with a computer was through a command-line interface. What does it mean to a user nowadays to have that pointless “>” thing there? You send a parchment link to someone, they read the text, go “huh” and just close the tab. Not only the “>” means nothing to them, it doesn’t even blink except when the user finally types something - which they don’t know about.

I’m very obviously not advocating here the death of parser IF - it too a relic from the time. But just as IF has adopted clean antialiased fonts, it should adopt too the universal text entry graphical component known to everyone used to computers or smartphones. If you want to keep the > for historical accuracy, just hide it while user types and echo it along the result in the output.

thank you, tool authors


I’m actually a big fan of the symbol myself. On a practical level, it helps me to quickly identify my commands versus the text output when I am scrolling back through large amounts of text to try and figure something out. On a more emotional level, it is the point in the story where the author puts their hand on my shoulder and reassures me with a “you got this, buddy”. I believe it would be unnecessarily distracting if it kept blinking on and off on your screen every time you typed in a command. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever been more vehemently opposed to a suggestion in all of my life.


you or me old farts used to the form being fans of the symbol tells nothing about its inadequacy for today’s audiences.

People nowadays have no clue whatsoever about a text cursor. They’ve never seen one in their desktop nor in their smartphone. But they are very used to a text input component.


It’s familiar to me, but I never thought about how it seems to others–it must seem like a command prompt or something. I just always kept it, but yeah–it seems like the sort of not too hard change that can be made. The problem is there’s no good default.

But being able to change it, either to “What do I do now” or even “What do I do now (VERBS for a list of verbs)” after a parser error would be kind of neat.


I am neither old or have any sentimental attachment to the symbol, I just believe it works really well for its intended purpose.


Well, changing it is trivial in I7.

FWIW, I find it SO annoying when there’s actual text in place of the prompt. For one thing, in a mobile device, space is at a premium. For another, it’s just so damn distracting…


FWIW, I’m reminded of the arguments in favour of abolishing the compass rose.

The reason we’re still using it, regardless, is because it works and it’s better than any of the alternatives people have tried.

The prompt provides a way to let the user know it’s their turn to type, as opposed to, say, pressing a key to continue (not all games actually say “press a key to continue”). It’s the equivalent of the mouse being in ACTION mode, rather than WAIT; of the cutscene being over, the camera setting, the HUD coming up and you starting to take action.

The blinking cursor isn’t universally used. Windows Frotz, for instance, has a big old character-size rectangle which I find rather pleasing. Even when it’s used, as in WinGit, the blinking cursor appears even when you have to press a key to read more, rather than awaiting input.

Replacing the text of the prompt is doable, though I don’t see much point. Doing away with the prompt at all… is like the equivalent of a game where you never know whether you’re watching a cutscene or whether you’re supposed to start doing stuff now.


There might be something else going on rather than the prompt in those cases.


Well, I suppose there could be an option at the start, to have the generic > prompt or have something a bit more descriptive. That way we could satisfy both people using mobile devices and people who wanted to see more detailed prompts.

Unless of course too many yes/no options were asked at the start.


I don’t think I make myself clear. I’m not talking about replacing the text cursor for another text cursor, I’m talking about getting rid of it.

Replace it with its modern world equivalent: a text input component like this one we’re typing at. Actually, a text input is precisely what parchment uses, but it hides under this obnoxious obsolete look of a command-line interface that most kids these days have never seen, aside from geeks, sure.

My point is that this relic should go, just as white over black monotype fonts in 80x25 display has gone. It drags parser IF widespread.

Son of Hunky Punk is the best android terp: runs fine both zcode and tads and is actively maintained. It sports oldass CLI cursor and has about 5k downloads. Text Fiction implements a modern interface akin to a chat, with usual text input fixed at the bottom of the screen and has 10x the downloads, despite coming later. It’s about the same of venerable Twisty, but that’s been there forever and I supposed it eventually surpasses it.

Now, I don’t like their plain chat interface for all the text, but I’d say using a modern day and well-known interface goes a long way towards reaching a new audience. And I don’t suppose that parser IF dying a slow death in the hands of old diehard fans is healthy or desirable.

btw, when I call a text input modern, it’s only so in relation to our late 70’s standards. Because text inputs have been present to home consumers since the Mac from the 80’s too.


I like the standard prompt because it tells me what type of input is expected. If “>” appears the game wants a string; if it doesn’t, it wants a keypress. I’ve been experimenting with “]” in Scroll Thief for inputs which can be either (start typing to give a string, press space/return/enter/esc to let the game take control).


FWIW, IF and adventure games have supposedly been dying slow, agonising deaths for decades. Just sayin’.


And adventure games have long since ditched the parser for a mouse and verb lists and in recent years the verb list for non-verbal clicking and even non-verbal narratives.

Don’t think we should go as far as that: just going from CLI cursor to a GUI standard text input at the bottom of the screen should be enough to make parser IF more approachable to newbies, no?


If you’re going to bring up death of the parser-based graphic adventures and the advent of point-and-click adventures as a comparison for IF, then it seems clear that parser IF is done for, because Twine and Texture and CYOA and Choice Of are the equivalent of point-and-click adventures.

Yet parser IF is still alive and kicking and, as Worldsmith shows, there are still people willing to even try and make it go commercial, and people who are not IF gurus like Short and Plotkin.

More and more I wonder whether we should cater to an audience that probably will never really be interested in parser IF. Make it more accessible, yes, by all means. Provide shortcuts, tutorials, I guess, why not. But surely there comes a point at which we have to say, look, this is what parser IF is. If you still aren’t interested, you’re better off playing other games.

Funny thing, as with all niche things, parser IF seems to survive because people never really let it die out - there’s always newcomers. But they are the sort of newcomer that would like parser IF, because the sort that doesn’t isn’t going to come around to it however much you gild the lilly.

Having said all that: you’re probably not talking to the right crowd. :slight_smile: Of COURSE we’re all going to defend the prompt, we’ve gotten so used to it, and games that change the prompt momentarily subvert our expectations and throw us a bit. Like Draconis said, it serves a function and we’ve gotten used to it.

Let me also bring up another minor point: in I7 it’s trivial - trivial - to change the command prompt. I7 has brought a number of newbies. Yet virtually no one - so few people as to hardly count - has seen the need to change the prompt.

There are entry barriers in parser IF. I read about it all the time; people trying the wrong sort of command, people trying to refer to things that aren’t there, people who bought the illusion of total freedom the parser gives you at the beginning. People who aren’t used to the conventions. Those are serious barriers (and again, if after a tutorial people still haven’t got it and quit the game and gone elsewhere, I say let them go rather than force them to enjoy something they just don’t). The prompt? Pretty small potatoes, innit?


The wrong crowd, for sure. I’m certainly not pitching the idea for the sake of people used to the old 70’s metaphor for text input.


“I wonder whether we should cater to an audience that probably will never really be interested in parser IF. Make it more accessible, yes, by all means.”

first statement is all defensive and defeatist and I don’t know why since we seem to want the same thing as second sentence implies. Surely embracing a standard text input would make it more accessible to all people than having this > thing which only means something to geeks used to command prompts in their basement programming sessions.

btw, in whatsapp, in other chats and in old terminal text adventuring, the prompt is always blinking to let people know they can type something. Don’t know when it became fashion to stop the blinking… I don’t mean the > itself blinking


The > looked completely archaic and geeky when I first started playing parser IF. The thing that got me turned on to it was: I love to read fiction + I love puzzles + I was lucky enough to find out what it even was through a series of random events and unrelated searches. There are a number of very notable exceptions to the “having to love puzzles” criterion within the parser library, but not many.

I think the major barrier to parser games having a broader audience is the third criterion I mentioned, many people just don’t know what it is or how amazingly talented many of the authors are at crafting stories, many of whom are on par or better than the best contemporary book authors. That is why I like what Christopher Huang is doing , now imagine if he or another IF author made The New York Times Best Sellers list, and how much publicity and how large of a fan base that would bring to IF?

Your goal is a noble one, I just believe you are possibly looking in the wrong direction? It would be a great idea to update the interface to expand parser IF to a broader audience, I just can’t imagine how that could be done and be a benefit to any player at the same time? I don’t think somebody who loves fiction and puzzles will get turned off just because they saw a geeky looking >, I also don’t think people who hate fiction or puzzles will get enthused to play parser IF because the prompt is modernized?

I like the > because, like others have noted, it serves a very useful function, and you would have to substitute another symbol that performs that same very useful function if you wanted to modernize it? That blinking vertical line is great in Microsoft Office, it just doesn’t adequately perform as well of a function by itself in parser games. Thoroughly looking at my keyboard now, I do not see a single symbol (or combination of symbols) that better says “type here now” or “you typed here” than >. Sorry for the wall of text, and going slightly off topic just a bit.


I’ve found there’s two types of people, and this is true about everything in life.

There’s the people who, when they find something they are interested about, take the time to learn about it. To experiment. To learn conventions and rules, and weave their expectations around these rules.

And then there’s the people who feel that the rules have to bend themselves to suit their likes and dislikes, who feel so entitled that if something doesn’t suit them they’ll start trying to change it at once, or just plain leave, ignoring convention, history and established community practices.

I don’t see why we should cater to the second group. It’s not even the second group, as one might think, that leads to great advances and new forms; on the contrary, it’s people on the first group, who have a very firm grap on rules and conventions, who begin to wonder how they might toy with it and bring something new.

The first group of people know what conventions to break or bend in order to break new ground. The second group are fiddlers, trying to make it into what they want it to be, until they get bored and move elsewhere. The second group expect that Inform 7 magically knows what they want to do, the first group take the time to learn it and eventually make it do magic stuff. And programming in I7 is so close to playing a parser game (it pretends to be natural language, and it sort of is, but if you don’t learn the rules you won’t get anywhere) that you can actually correlate these two.

I think “cynical” is more appropriate to my worldview, rather than pessimistic, but I won’t contest that I certainly have no rose-tinted glasses on. :slight_smile:


Peter more or less captures my point of view here. If, in trying to “save” parser IF, we change it to suit people who don’t like parser IF, it’s quite likely that we’ll have to change it so much that it no longer is parser IF. At which point, can we really be said to have saved anything?

It’s as if, because not enough people are coming to see live theater, the owner of the local playhouse converts it into a movie theater. That might generate an audience and save his bottom line, but it does nothing for live theater. People viewing this change through an abstract enough lens, such as that of “community narrative spaces”, might praise the owner for this revitalization, but that would be little consolation to people who want to see a play.


my only puzzlement is why didn’t we keep the 80x25 monospace aliased fonts too… :confused:

why exactly was gorgeous font styling adopted for slick presentation of IF content, but we still cling to a 70’s style console terminal text cursor for input rather than a modern text input? what kind of reasoning is beyond those choices?

so, yes, it’s a thing of its own and it has its own geeky charm as our fellow citizen noted. It is geeky after all. It hangs there like a reminder that this was brought about by cave spelunkers and unleashed upon all those D&D fans who were nerdy enough to have a computer in the beginning of the 80s. And it still clings there to this day, even though most IF has mostly moved away from the early puerile text-adventure fantasy romps and we have moved away from text terminal consoles and where perhaps a more chatty interface might work better.

but it was just a suggestion and observation. Getting rid of > just means getting it from the main text output pane and putting it below that, but still echoeing all actions up there - reflecting a more modern user interface metaphor. I don’t understand how that’d hurt so much…


If I may hazard a guess, it’d be because they are two different things.

Better and more readable fonts, adjustable background and foreground colour and font size are all things which will directly impact how easy the text is to read, and how much effort it is on the eyes. Which is one of the two very big reasons that people like me, who swore up and down they’d never go digital in terms of books, now find it so natural to read in handheld properly formatted devices that they wonder whether they’ll ever go back to the printed page (the other reason, of course, being no longer having to lug around big books).

The prompt is not a visual nicety at all, but a gameplay cue.

Whether it could be updated or revised is one thing, but I don’t think you’ll go anywhere by comparing it with old-style displays. For one thing, if the whole text is anti-aliased and pretty, then so is the > sign, right? :wink: It’s no less anti-aliased than the rest.

EDIT - The best way to make IF appealing to modern gamers is probably the inclusion of media. Graphics and sound. It’s possible to include them in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the IFishnessy.

Funny thing, in the Spanish IF community using media is almost the norm. Your average game WILL have media and graphics. They will also bend over backwards to streamline the experience as much as possible, I remember a discussion - quite heated! - which was essentially about removing as much “Inform banner info” as possible, to keep it strictly to the minimum necessary so as not to disrupt the enjoyment and take the player out of the necessary immersion.