The 10 commandments of adventure writing for small-screened devices

  1. Favour inverse-video (light ink upon dark background) rather than true-video when writing text games for small-screened devices (SSDs). Sights worldwide will be thankful and more eager to invite their hosting eyeballs to play it.
  2. A full-sized screen design squeezed in a small screen (100%>50%) is more uncomfortable than a small-sized screen design designed to fit in a small-sized screen (100%>100%). Design the interface of your game with the end-user screen size in mind. The fact that emulators can emulate all those nice features does not mean that you must, ought, need to use all of them.
  3. Colour is nice but makes reading confusing in SSDs. Stick to black background and white font ink. A touch of colour here and there is fine, but that’s it for now.
  4. Fonts are also nice but most of them are a pest to read. Stick to standard, square, bold types that print clearly on screen.
  5. In the end: never combine exotic fonts with colours.
  6. Make sure and test that all of your interface’s elements can be read effortlessly in the end-user device. Believe me: most times, it turns out that the appearance of your text adventure in the e.g. Nokia N95 looks as garbled as a nice porridge of scrambled eggs. Who feels like playing a game like that?
  7. Most emulators accept regular text input either via an emulated, transparent keyboard or an “input string” native menu option. But things like function keys (F1), extra modes, etc., are usually poorly implemented and can make of your game a headache to play. Avoid intricate inputs and stick your player’s input to numbers 0-9 and letters a-z.
  8. Keep your input as simple as possible: one- or two-touch commands is rule of thumb here. Map your vocabulary in advance and make sure that most, if not all, of the necessary commands feature a one- or two-letter synonim: EX for examine, TK for take, TAL for take all, DR for drop, etc.
  9. Learn from the masters and keep your vocabulary (verbs) as synthetic as possible.  Put them in an online screen and let the player have a refresh reading with a HELP command. Shortlist  your verbs (as Lucasarts games do) and create a core group of commands that can apply to most of the situations. Remember that the pleasure and beauty of playing IF and text adventures is the reading effect of events happening rather than finding the right word or emulating Shakespeare and prove that you can produce the most complicate phrasing.
  10. Put as much passion and work on a text adventure for SSDs as you may on a large, PC desktop text adventure. A small screen does not mean small descriptions, small puzzles (if that’s your adventure writing style), small attention to details, small mistakes here and there… small meaning bad, ugly, stupid, incomplete or simply unprofessional. When writing text adventures for SDDS, think bigger than big.

Do you want to contribute your own suggestions here? Please don’t hesitate to do it and WRITE NOW to paw@artematopeya.es.

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