§32   Scope and what you can see

He cannot see beyond his own nose. Even the fingers he out-stretches from it to the world are (as I shall suggest) often invisible to him.
— Max Beerbohm (1872–1956), of George Bernard Shaw

Time to say what “in scope” means. This definition is one of the most important rules of play, because it decides what the player is allowed to refer to. You can investigate this experimentally by compiling any game with the debugging suite of verbs included (see §7) and typing “scope” in interesting places. “In scope” roughly means “the compass directions, what you're carrying and what you can see”. It exactly means this:

  1. the compass directions;
  2. the player's immediate possessions;
  3. if there is light, then the contents of the player's visibility ceiling (see §21 for definition, but roughly speaking the outermost object containing the player which remains visible, which is usually the player's location);
  4. if there is darkness, then the contents of the library's object thedark (by default there are no such contents, but some designers have been known to move objects into thedark: see ‘Ruins’);
  5. if the player is inside a container, then that container;
  6. if O is in scope and is see-through (see §21), then the contents of O;
  7. if O is in scope, then any object which it “adds to scope” (see below).

with the proviso that the InScope entry point (see below) can add to or replace these rules, if you write one.

It's significant that rule (3) doesn't just say “whatever is in the current location”. For instance, if the player is in a closed cupboard in the Stores Room, then rule (3) means that the contents of the cupboard are in scope, but other items in the Stores Room are not.

Even in darkness the player's possessions are in scope, so the player can still turn on a lamp being carried. On the other hand, a player who puts the lamp on the ground and turns it off then loses the ability to turn it back on again, because it is out of scope. This can be changed; see below.

Compass directions make sense as things as well as directions, and they respond to names like “the south wall” and “the floor” as well as “south” and “down”.

The concealed attribute only hides objects from room descriptions, and doesn't remove them from scope. If you want things to be unreferrable-to, put them somewhere else!

The small print: 1. For “player”, read “actor”. Thus “dwarf, drop sword” will be accepted if the dwarf can see the sword even if the player can't. 2. Scope varies depending on the token being parsed: for the multi- tokens, compass directions are not in scope; for multiexcept the other object isn't in scope; for multiinside only the contents of the other object are in scope.

Two library routines enable you to see what's in scope and what isn't. The first, TestScope(obj, actor), simply returns true or false according to whether or not obj is in scope. The second is LoopOverScope(routine, actor) and calls the given routine for each object in scope. In each case the actor given is optional, and if it's omitted, scope is worked out for the player as usual.

Implement the debugging suite's “scope” verb, which lists all the objects currently in scope.

Write a “megalook” verb, which looks around and examines everything in scope except the walls, floor and ceiling.

Formally, scope determines what you can talk about, which usually means what you can see or hear. But what can you touch? Suppose a locked chest is inside a sealed glass cabinet. The Inform parser will allow the command “unlock chest with key” and generate the appropriate action, <Unlock chest key>, because the chest is in scope, so the command at least makes sense.

But it's impossible to carry out, because the player can't reach through the solid glass. So the library's routine for handling the Unlock action needs to enforce this. The library does this using a stricter rule called “touchability”. The rule is that you can touch anything in scope unless there's a closed container between you and it. This applies either if you're in the container, or if it is.

Some purely visual actions, such as Examine or LookUnder, don't require touchability. But most actions are tactile, and so are many actions created by designers. If you want to make your own action routines enforce touchability, you can call the library routine ObjectIsUntouchable(obj). This either returns false and prints nothing if there's no problem in touching obj, or returns true and prints a suitable message, such as “The solid glass cabinet is in the way.” Thus, the first line of many of the library's action routines is:

if (ObjectIsUntouchable(noun)) return;

You can also call ObjectIsUntouchable(obj, true) to simply return true or false, printing nothing, if you'd rather provide your own failure message.

The rest of this section is about how to change the scope rules. As usual with Inform, you can change them globally, but it's more efficient and safer to work locally. To take a typical example: how do we allow the player to ask questions like the traditional “what is a grue”? The “grue” part ought to be parsed as if it were a noun, so that we could distinguish between, say, a “garden grue” and a “wild grue”. So it isn't good enough to look only at a single word. Here is one solution:

[ QuerySub; 
  noun.description(); return;
[ QueryTopic;
  switch (scope_stage) {
      1: rfalse;
      2: ScopeWithin(questions); rtrue;
      3: "At the moment, even the simplest questions confuse you.";
Object questions;

where the actual questions at any time are the current children of the questions object, like so:

Object -> "long count"
  with name 'long' 'count',
       description "The Long Count is the great Mayan cycle of
           time, which began in 3114 BC and will finish with
           the world's end in 2012 AD.";

(which might be helpful in ‘Ruins’) and we also have a grammar line:

Verb 'what' * 'is'/'was' scope=QueryTopic -> Query;

The individual questions have short names so that the parser might be able to say “Which do you mean, the long count or the short count?” if the player asked “what is the count”. (As it stands this won't recognise “what is the count?”. Conventionally players are supposed not to type question marks or quotes in their commands. To allow this one could always add 'count?' as one of the names above.)

Here is the specification. When the parser reaches scope=Whatever, it calls the Whatever routine with the variable scope_stage set to 1. The routine should return true if it is prepared to allow multiple objects to be accepted here, and false otherwise. (In the example, as we don't want “what is everything” to list all the questions and answers in the game, we return false.)

A little later the parser calls Whatever again with scope_stage now set to 2. Whatever is then obliged to tell the parser which objects are to be in scope. It can call two parser routines to do this:


which puts everything inside obj, but not obj itself, into scope, and then works through rules (6) and (7) above, so that it may continue to add the contents of the contents, and so on; and


which puts just obj into scope. It is perfectly legal to declare something in scope that “would have been in scope anyway”: or something which is in a different room altogether from the actor concerned, say at the other end of a telephone line. The scope routine Whatever should then return false if the nominated items are additional to the usual scope, or true if they are the only items in scope. (In the example, QueryTopic returns true because it wants the only items in scope to be its question topics, not the usual miscellany near the player.)

This is fine if the token is correctly parsed. If not, the parser may choose to ask the token routine to print a suitable error message, by calling Whatever with scope_stage set to 3. (In the example, this will happen if the player types “what is the lgon count”, and QueryTopic replies “At the moment, even the simplest questions confuse you.”, because it comes from a faintly dream-like game called ‘Balances’.)

Write a token which puts everything in scope, so that you could have a debugging “purloin” which could take anything, regardless of where it was and the rules applying to it.

The global scope rules can be tampered with by providing an entry point routine called InScope(actor), where actor is the actor whose scope is worked out. In effect, this defines the “ordinary” scope by making calls to ScopeWithin and PlaceInScope, then returning true or false, exactly as if it were a scope token at stage 2. For instance, here as promised is how to change the rule that “things you've just dropped disappear in the dark”:

[ InScope person i;
  if (person == player && location == thedark)
      objectloop (i in parent(player))
          if (i has moved) PlaceInScope(i);

With this routine added, objects near the player in a dark room are in scope only if they have moved (that is, have been held by the player in the past), and even then are in scope only to the player, not to anyone else.

The token scope=Routine takes precedence over InScope, which will only be reached if the routine returns false to signify “carry on”.

▲▲ There are seven reasons why InScope might be being called; the scope_reason variable is set to the current one:

The usual reason. Note that action_to_be holds NULL in the early stages (before the verb has been decided) and later on the action which would result from a successful match.
Working out which objects are in scope for being spoken to (see the end of §18 for exercises using this).
When running each_turn routines for anything nearby, at the end of each turn.
When running react_before.
When running react_after.
When performing a TestScope.
When performing a LoopOverScope.

Construct a long room divided by a glass window. Room descriptions on either side should describe what's in view on the other; the window should be possible to look through; objects on the far side should be in scope, but not manipulable.

Code the following puzzle. In an initially dark room there is a light switch. Provided you've seen the switch at some time in the past, you can turn it on and off – but before you've ever seen it, you can't. Inside the room is nothing you can see, but you can hear the distinctive sound of a dwarf breathing. If you tell this dwarf to turn the light on, he will.

Each object has the ability to drag other objects into scope whenever it is in scope. This is especially useful for giving objects component parts: e.g., giving a washing-machine a temperature dial. (The dial can't be a child object because that would throw it in with the clothes: and it ought to be attached to the machine in case the machine is moved from place to place.) For this purpose, the property add_to_scope may contain a list of objects to add.

Alternatively, it may contain a routine. This routine can then call AddToScope(x) to add any object x to scope. It may not, however, call ScopeWithin or any other scoping routines.

▲▲ Scope addition does not occur for an object moved into scope by an explicit call to PlaceInScope, since this must allow complete freedom in scope selections. But it does happen when objects are moved in scope by calls to ScopeWithin(domain).

(From the tiny example game ‘A Nasal Twinge’.) Give the player a nose, which is always in scope and can be held, reducing the player's carrying capacity.

(Likewise.) Create a portable sterilising machine, with a “go” button, a top which things can be put on and an inside to hold objects for sterilisation. Thus it is a container, a supporter and a possessor of sub-objects all at once.

Create a red sticky label which the player can affix to any object in the game. (Hint: use InScope, not add_to_scope.)

‘Balances’ uses scope = routine tokens for legible spells and memorised spells.   Jesse Burneko's library extension "Info.h" is a helpful model to follow: using a simple scope token, it allows for “consult” and “ask” commands to access topics which are provided as objects.   See also the exercises at the end of §18 for further scope trickery.   Similarly, L. Ross Raszewski's "whatis.h" (adapted to Inform 6 by Andrew C. Murie) and David Cornelson's "whowhat.h" field questions such as “what is…” and “who is…”.