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AIF 101: Mapping

When I first began programming text adventures in Basic on my TSR 80, each separate location had an x y co-ordinate. If you left to the west, you subtracted 1 from the player's y co-ordinate. If you went east, you added one. Every object had a co-ordinate, specifying where its current location was. You could only interact with objects whose x/y matched yours.

This of course lead to all of my early games being mapped out like square grids. I mapped them out on graph paper most of the time.

The IF languages available today are much more versatile than the games I used to make. Each location links to another location; there is no need for a strict x/y grid. I have found that, when mapping, instead of using a series of equally-sized boxes connected by lines, drawing out an actual map of the game area is much more useful. You can get a real idea of the relative size of areas.

Since by now you've already developed the basic story line and event listing for your game, you can start mapping by making a list of needed maps. In our sample game, we need a map for the castle, the road, the port city, a boat, and some tunnels.

Furthermore, under each map, there are certain locations needed by our events. In the castle, we need a ballroom and a garden. When we draw the actual map, we can add other logical areas to it as well. We can add a balcony to the side of the ballroom. We decide that the rest of the castle isn't really important, but be can separate the ballroom into three separate locations... its a big area!

Sometimes the map can give us ideas for puzzles and encounters. These are effectively "mini-events", and you should make note of them as you go along. Suppose that, while on the road after the Dragon and Princess, the player comes across a washed out bridge. Brainstorm a number of possible solutions for this puzzle, and choose the one you like best. Lets say there is a ferry a ways down the bank, for example... but upon arrival, the player finds that the captain has gone missing. This gives us another "mini-event", finding the captain. Turns out he's in a roadside tavern, deep in his cups, and not really in the mood to pilot his boat. This being AIF, perhaps Lady Elva can be asked to "persuade" him otherwise, leading to a voyeuristic scene for the player if he chooses to watch.

In the above example, we'd need to add a new character... the Captain. He's a minor character, serving only to have sex with another npc and to ferry the players across the river.

There's not much more to mapping than that. Make sure to denote any objects located in any given area, and you can draw obstacle based puzzles directly on the map.


Mazes suck. Don't use them. They were a novelty in the days of IF infancy, but they are the most basic and frustrating of puzzles. I'm talking about the mazes comprised of a number of identical rooms, each without variation or detail. Trust me. Nobody likes them, and they're not very clever anymore.

Next: Coding

© 2004 J Freebase - Updated 07/12/2004