Making maps

This section gives you a tour of the main commands for making maps. It’s not complete; see Language for a full list of commands.

Introduction to maps

The traditional Infocom-style way of drawing Interactive Fiction maps is the “boxes-and-lines” method, like this:


This is the style of map that IFM produces. Rooms are represented as boxes on a square grid, and links between the rooms are drawn as lines connecting them. Links emanate from rooms in any of the eight standard compass directions, and also follow the grid. In the following sections, we’ll introduce the IFM commands that can be used to draw this example map.

Adding rooms

To draw the example map from the previous section, you first choose an arbitrary start location: the kitchen (when mapping a real game, you’d choose your actual start location). To add the kitchen, just type this:

room "Kitchen";

Now you’re in the kitchen. Suppose, if this were a real game, that you first went south to explore the garage. That can be added to the map like this:

room "Garage" dir south;

Now you’ve said which way you went to get to the garage, and since you were in the kitchen, IFM knows that the garage is south of the kitchen. By the way, south can be abbreviated s (and similarly for all other directions), just like in the games.

Ok, you’re in the garage. Unfortunately, that’s a dead end and you have to retrace your steps to the kitchen. You’ve already mapped that, so there’s no need to do anything. Now you head off east to the lounge. Now, you’re moving from the kitchen again but IFM thinks you’re in the garage (IFM’s idea of “where you are” is always the last room mentioned). You need a way of referring to the kitchen again—to do that, you add a tag to it by changing the “kitchen” line like this:

room "Kitchen" tag Kitchen;

The tag name can be any name you like. You might think that you could refer to the kitchen by using the name in quotes, but that would mean you could never have two distinct rooms with the same name. Another advantage of tags is that they can be much shorter than the real room names. The tag K would be just as valid in the example above (though not as readable).

Now you can refer to the kitchen by its tag, so you can move east from it into the lounge like this:

room "Lounge" dir e from Kitchen;

The from clause tells IFM where you’re moving from. If it’s omitted, it assumes you’re moving from the last room mentioned.

Continuing your exploration, you move south into the dining room:

room "Dining Room" dir s;

You exit the dining room to the east, and turn a corner north before entering the study. How can you represent the corner faithfully on the map? Like this:

room "Study" dir e n;

This says that you move east, then north, to get to the study. Now, what if someone locked the study door behind you and the only way out was through the window? That’s a one-way trip into the study, which you can indicate using the oneway attribute like this:

room "Study" dir e n oneway;

This is indicated on the map by an arrow.

Other directions

Suppose that there were steps down from the kitchen into the garage, and that you wanted to indicate that you could up or down as well. You could do that using the go clause, like this:

room "Garage" dir s go down;

This indicates that the actual direction travelled is downwards, but it is still represented as south on the map. The go clause accepts up, down, in and out. As with compass directions, up and down may be abbreviated as u and d.

Room exits

At various points in a game, you arrive in a room with many directions to explore. It is useful to be able to mark some of these directions as unexplored, so that you can come back and explore them later. You could mark these by creating dummy rooms in those directions, but this is tedious. Alternatively, you can use the exit clause, like this:

room "Dining Room" dir s exit nw e;

This says that there are two unexplored exits from this room, in the northwest and east directions. When a map is drawn, this fact will be displayed by a small line poking out of the room in those directions.

When you come to actually explore those directions, and add links to new rooms, the corresponding room exit markers will no longer be drawn. So you can leave the exit clauses in if you want.

Map sections

In IFM, rooms are divided into groups called map sections. Each room in a map section has an explicit spatial relationship to all the other rooms in that section. A room which is obtained by moving via a dir clause from a previous room is on the same map section as the previous room, since its co-ordinates can be calculated relative to it.

There are several reasons why it might be a good idea to split a game map into different sections:

  • Some maps can be very large, and may not look good on a single piece of paper.
  • It might be awkward to put rooms in relation to each other because of, say, a lot of up/down connections which have to be “flattened out”.
  • The game might naturally divide into sections—a prologue, middle-game and end-game, for example.

IFM manages independent map sections automatically, by deciding which rooms are on which section. No special command is needed to start a new map section—simply define a room which has no connection to any previous room, by leaving out the dir clause (note that that’s how the kitchen starts out, in the example).

Rooms on different map sections are completely separate, and you may not link them via the link command. However, you can indicate where a room on one section is connected to a room on another, using the join command:

join Room1 to Room2;

As usual, Room1 and Room2 are tag names. You can also use join as a clause in a room command (usually done with the room starting in a new section):

room "Basement" join Ground_Floor;

The “joined” status of the two rooms is indicated after their description text; the default is to use an increasing number.

Each map section can be given a title using the map command, like this:

map "Kensington Gardens";

This names the next map section that hasn’t been named. Note that you should have as many map commands as you have map sections, although this isn’t enforced—any names that are missing will be assigned default names, and extra names will be ignored. It’s conventional to give a map command just before starting a new map section.

In rare circumstances (e.g., a three-dimensional maze) you may need to have rooms on the same map section which are not connected to each other. The room dir clause creates an implicit link from the previous room by default, but you can stop this from happening by using the nolink attribute. As a trivial example:

room "One Side of Wall" tag this_side;
room "Other Side of Wall" dir e nolink tag other_side;
room "Underground Passage" tag passage_1;
room "Underground Passage" tag passage_2 dir e;
join this_side to passage_1 go down;
join passage_2 to other_side go up;

In this example, there are two map sections: above ground, and below ground. But the two above-ground rooms are not connected directly.

Adding items

As well as rooms, IFM can indicate the initial rooms of various items found in the game. To add an item, use the item command like this:

item "Spoon" in Kitchen;

The in clause can be omitted, and then the room defaults to the last room mentioned. You can also add an arbitrary note to each item (e.g., to remind you what it’s for) using the note attribute:

item "Spoon" in Kitchen note "Stirs tea";

Here’s the completed map description for the above example, with a few other items thrown in:

title "Example Map";

room "Kitchen" tag Kitchen;
  item "spoon" note "Stirs tea";
  item "sink";
  item "monkey";

room "Garage" dir s go down;
  item "monkey wrench" note "For wrenching monkey out of sink";

room "Lounge" dir e from Kitchen;
  item "TV set";

room "Dining Room" dir s link Kitchen;
  item "table";
  item "chair";

room "Study" dir e n oneway;

And this is what it looks like as rendered by IFM:


Mapping problems

After creating a map from a real game and sending the results through IFM, you may get warnings which talk about things overlapping. This is due to two rooms, or a room and a link, wanting to occupy the same space on the map. There are several ways that this could occur:

  • The game designer made some room links longer than others, and you haven’t taken that into account. To extend the length of a link, just add a length indicator after the direction in the dir clause (e.g., dir e 2 instead of dir e).
  • One of the links turned a corner, so that the direction you use to go back isn’t the opposite of the one you used to get here. In that case, you need to add the corner-turn in the link (e.g., dir e s instead of dir e).
  • The map is multi-level, in which case it’s probably best to split it into different map sections.
  • The map is just weird. Colossal Cave is a good example, particularly the above-ground section and the mazes. There seems to be no logic tying the rooms together. You’re on your own.