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I imagine this has been asked before but - opinions on parsers?


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I've read a lot of stuff on adventure games where people have singled out things like SQ and KQ with the idea that parsers were good for their day, but are now an outdated technology that we should be glad to be rid of. I, on the other hand, really like parsers and will often happily play purely text-based parser games with no graphics at all. I definitely prefer them to point and clicks, and I like having adventure games that are puzzles without all the 3d spatial awareness needed in modern full-3d game types. (Also this isn't just 1980s nostalgia in my case, I can confirm: I wasn't born until the mid-90s!)

 

What do you all think of text parsers? Good riddance, cute but outdated, or actually still a fun way to play games?

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I'm against the notion that most everything gets outdated. Not everything gets outdated as much as people say they do. 3D graphics were terrible when they first came out, so they were outdated. However people even feel nostalgia for that. Interfaces, however, were made and perfected in their time. There were no mice when parsers were made. Parsers are the most versatile interface there is. That's why we still type when we program rather than "point & click" commands together. Yes, the GUI has overcome the command line interface, but it's still not as powerful as the latter.

 

My point being, it's not a matter of being outdated it's a matter of being unpopular, something people often confuse. And it bugs me. There is nothing wrong at all with a parser anymore than there is anything wrong with 2D graphics. It's just a matter of patience and being willing to align your way of thinking with that of the game designer rather than the designer trying to guess how best the players like to play. It's not like people have lost their patience. The PC gaming population 25+ years ago was much smaller and comprised of very different types of people than today.

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A well designed parser game is one thing, but it can be easier for a designer to screwup a parser game. It is never fun to play the "what word am I thinking of, now" guessing game with a poor designer. This can become exacerbated for non-native speakers. Even regional spelling differences can make a game frustrating if that is not accounted for in the game's vocabulary.

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True. But that has absolutely nothing to do with it being "outdated" or not. P&C can easily be just as badly designed. Point & Click is not "better" than a parser. It's easier. But you'll never get everyone to agree that easier is always better. Obviously some most do, judging by the types of adventure games we're seeing nowadays. It did streamline games and open them up to a broader audience, but it also dumbed them down at the same time. Was that better? Again, maybe for some most. But I'll always disagree that just because something got more popular does not mean that its predecessor is now outdated.

 

Myself, I'm not the huge fan of parser games like those who consider it superior to P&C (which is a legitimate opinion for them), but I also see nothing wrong with them. I enjoy both. It's unfortunate that parser games died out because there are some interesting things you can do with a parser interface game deisgn-wise that you just cannot accomplish with a P&C interface. Such is the industry, people are dogmatic about what they've "grown up with" being superior to anything new. Sometimes it's true sometimes it's just blind nostalgia. But really neither are superior or inferior. There are superior and inferior implementations of both, but I pause to call either "outdated" for those reasons.

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I grew up on parser games, so of course I'm gonna say that I love 'em. Particularly text adventures. My first games were Zork and King's Quest I EGA. That said, I also love point-and-click games. To me, an adventure game is an adventure game. The interface doesn't matter as long as the story is good.

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I think "outdated" also applies to the right tool for the right job. Parsers were removed primarily because, as Collector alludes to, it's easier to design a passable point n' click interface than a good parser. By the same token, for most gameplay needs better 3D graphics convey more information in a more pleasing format. But if you design a game around certain mechanics, old 3D or a parser might be a better tool to get you where you want to go.

 

Horseshoes are "outdated" because so few people have horses. But for the ones that do...

 

Anyway. I like a good parser. A GOOD parser. And I think they could be used very effectively in modern games, especially if tied into a more "Siri" type environment where you can "talk" to the character in the game. That could be through the keyboard or the microphone. It will only work, though, if the game is built specifically around that mechanic rather than being bolted on.

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I was not expressing a preference of one over the other, or even if I thought that the parser is "dated". As much as one might complain about the oversimplified GUI of KQ7 or the overly complicated one of GK1, they don't get in the way of the narrative and game play as much as a badly designed parser. That said, I don't mind a parser game as long as the parser is robust enough and the vocabulary complete enough. In fact it would seem like you could do a better parser today, one that could even make sense of typos the way Google can.

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I quite like some P&Cs (something like MOTAS for example), but I'd express a marginal preference for parser games I think, just because I like the challenge of them. I like the idea of a parser that lets you talk to the character; that could be a very neat game concept...

 

I've been working on making a parser-based adventuring RPG game for quite a while (mock-humour-fantasy-ish, written in Python), though it's rather stalled because the original design (and indeed the engine) includes functionality for each location to have a static illustration and finding an artist has proven impossible. :/

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I should really get back to it sometime... more artist hunting doesn't appeal much currently though.

 

But yeah, at current stage there's about 30 locations, a few small quest lines, 3 character classes each with 4 levels, a load of skills, and towns etc to explore. It's fun to mess around with. :)

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I might well end up doing so - unfortunately I didn't plan for that so I now need to disassemble the graphics display bit of the playscreen, which if not a massive job in terms of programming is still going to be a bit annoying to do. The combat system was also going to use the display area after my next upgrade of it too... I'll take another look soon and get back to you all when I've worked out what I'm doing.

 

How big do you think the text-only community is? I mean, I know it's non-zero, but I don't really know where to find it on the internet in any numbers.

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I can code efficiently - though only in fairly lightweight languages, I'm not up to writing a decent game engine but I can script in Python or JavaScript pretty well. Graphics are a big problem though, particularly for something like this where the artist would need to be another hobbyist - since I'm pretty sure there's no commercial outlook for the project given the current market for text-heavy parser games.

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To attract someone to your project may require some sort of "proof of concept". Place holder images may be the best recourse to that end. You might see what you can find online in terms of royalty free images.

 

@MI, the KQ2AGI picture and view resources worked pretty well for place holder images for your KQ2SCI. A few more community contests could flesh out its resources to completion.

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The late, great Douglas Adams loved the parser and famously compared (or at least had someone writing for his website compare) point-and-click games to the literary equivalent of banging two rocks together.

 

But, then, he also wrote what I would deign the quintessential parser game -- Infocom's Hitchhiker's game -- where you literally get into arguments with your computer over how to proceed. The man knew how to toy with conventions.

 

His much-touted reintroduction of the parser in Starship Titanic? Ehh, not so much. Nice effort, but it really just reacted to a comparably short list of recognized words in a sentence -- probably because every response had to be voiced by an actor.

 

I actually quite like how Leisure Suit Larry 7 reintroduced the parser in a p-n-c environment by having you click on the noun and then optionally typing in the verb. I wish more games had done this.

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You know, the Infocom game is what got me into the books. ;)

 

The late, great Douglas Adams loved the parser and famously compared (or at least had someone writing for his website compare) point-and-click games to the literary equivalent of banging two rocks together.

But, then, he also wrote what I would deign the quintessential parser game -- Infocom's Hitchhiker's game -- where you literally get into arguments with your computer over how to proceed. The man knew how to toy with conventions.

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I think the HTML 5 environment would be a good place for small "episodes" to be released. Sort of 30 minute adventure games, with a parser being part of the fun of interacting with the story. Serena (although not a parser, obviously) showed brilliantly how a short story could work in a computer game environment, and not sacrifice artistic merit for the sake of brevity. </cannot_be_said_without_sounding_wanky>

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...

It's funny with parsers... I had played parser games as a kid, SQ, Police Quest, etc.

and never had a problem with them, but then more recently when I thought about them,

I assumed I liked point-n-click better and that parsers were a pain...

 

This was one of the reasons I was hesitant to play the first four King's Quest games, as I had

kind of convinced myself that parsers are a pain in the ass, having to write all the stuff in, do I really

want to go back and play a parser game, etc.

I kind of associated them with too much typing, having to guess too many words, having almost

too many options to try, being too complex, etc.

 

But when I went to play those early KQ games, I didn't even notice the parser... it was so intuitive

and simple for the most part that I forgot about my whole prejudice against parsers almost immediately.

 

Even when there was some word or word order I wasn't getting right, I didn't even really put that down

to the parser systems fault really, I just put it down to the programmer not putting a few more words in it,

rather than the actual parser function itself.

 

So yeah, I guess what might happen with parsers is that people's idea of what they're like is different from

what they're actually like, especially if they've never played a game with one in before, or if they haven't

played one for a long time.

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