Parser-choice hybrid

From IFWiki

Parser-choice hybrid (or just hybrid) interactive fiction covers works which are not easily categorised as either parser-based or choice-based IF, having some characteristics of both.

Parser games switching to choice

Some parser games switch to choice-based play for certain sequences, then back to parser. The choices are usually presented as a numbered menu, and the player makes their choice by entering a number at the command prompt. This is commonly used for menu-based conversation, which has largely replaced the previously ubiquitous ask-tell-based conversation in the 2010s. When this kind of choice sequence is used only for conversation in an otherwise parser-driven work, it is generally not considered a hybrid game.

Some works, however, use the numbered menu system to represent not just dialogue, but the player characters's actions during certain sequences. For example:

  • Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! opens with the player character filling out a questionnaire in a magazine, the result of which determines the player's starting inventory, among other things. The game then switches to parser, and several times later goes back to menu-based input for fast-moving scenes that transition between sections of the game (as well as using menu-based conversation throughout.)
  • Taco Fiction has menu-based conversation with options that include consequential non-verbal actions such as pointing a gun at people.

Choice games with parser-like world models

Some games made with traditional choice systems, like Twine and Ink, implement a geographical world model with connected rooms as more usually found in parser games. The player moves between adjacent rooms by clicking choices, which may show the names of the connected rooms or (more parserishly) compass directions. Some take the world model further and implement portable objects which can be carried in the player's inventory. Examples:

  • Cactus Blue Motel takes place in a motel that the player moves around by clicking links with the names of adjacent rooms and corridors; many of Astrid Dalmady's other games implement similar world models.
  • 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds models the layout of a burger restaurant and its surroundings, as the setting of a puzzle-heavy game with many available inventory items and uses for them.
  • Inkle's Overboard!, created with Ink and Unity, takes place aboard a steam liner with rooms and cabins that the player moves between using a graphical point-and-click interface between conversational scenes. NPCs also wander from room to room. The bulk of the gameplay is choice-based conversation displayed as speechbubbles, although sometimes the choices include physical actions affecting inventory and other state.

Reduced parser games

Reduced parser games use a parser interface, but with a severely reduced set of commands, effectively giving the player a choice-like, finite set of options at every turn. Many of Arthur DiBianca's games fall into this category, notably Inside the Facility, which accepts only the four cardinal compass directions, LOOK, WAIT and STATUS.

"Parserless parser" games

Some games and development systems implement a full parser-like world model, but eschew the parser interface in favour of choice-style buttons or links. Examples:

  • Detectiveland and many of Robin Johnson's other games are written with a homebrew JavaScript engine that includes a geographical world model, portable inventory objects and VERB NOUN action model, displaying context-sensitive buttons to show the available verbs.
  • Gruescript is a development system that creates games with the same world model and interface. The Party Line was rewritten in Gruescript as its example full-length game.
  • Mikael Lindqvist's JavaScript system, prototyped in The Morning Game, implements a world model which shows in-text hyperlinks for locations and objects, with a finite set of verbs (GO TO, LOOK AT, USE, PICK UP and DROP) shown as permanent buttons. Commands are made by clicking a verb, then a word in the text.
  • Adventure Prompt is an engine for creating web-based games with point-and-click gameplay in a simulated space.

The term parserless parser was coined by Bruno Dias in his 2017 essay Towards a Theory of Parserless Parser Interfaces.