#82 Not sure whether to "use" or "look" at books/notices

Design (9)

This is a minor thing that's never really been at the forefront of my mind, but still worth mentioning.
When I pick up or come across anything with writing on it (sign/letter/notice/book/spellbook/memo/diary/etc.) I'm never quite sure if I should "Use" it or "Look" at it to read it.
Usually I try both.
I'm aware that with some signs or notices you can look at them, but can only read them if you're close to them. With most of the others, I'm not sure.
Somtimes you "look" at something and text appears in the console, other times you "use" something and the screen displays the text. It's not always clear which is which.
We should either define a convention for it ("use" always reads, "look" always describes for example), or make a fundamental change to the engine, such as adding a "Read" action.


  • The idea is that LOOK describes an object, and USE uses it. In the case of books, LOOK should give you the title, USE should actually read the thing. Reading each book to find out whether its the one you wanted to read is a PITA (Thief and Thief 2 did that, it wasn't fun).

    We could do with a list of examples of where LOOK actually reads them... offhand the only ones that spring to mind are possibly the child's drawings of The Cow in New Fairford. Arguably those should be fixed to behave like the others, i.e. giving the title.

  • What we want to avoid is having too many variations on "Activate". Ultima 4 and 5 did this, where you had to press (K)limb to go up a ladder, (D)descend to go down a latter, (O)pen to go through a door, e(X)it to dismount a horse or leave a vehicle, (Q)uaff or something to drink a potion and countless other idiocies that were all combined into (U)se come Ultima 6.

    Ultima 7 simplified this further still, such that a single-click of the mouse identified an object, and a double-click activated it. This did mean that you couldn't easily push things around anymore, and that you could no longer have different reactions for Use and Talk, but I'm not sure that we really use that ability much anyway.
    What it DID dispense with was long textual descriptions of things. E.g. if you clicked on something, it would say "Crucifix", not "You see an ornate town clock. It reads 01:24" or somesuch, or "That's one scary rabbit" when looking at the rabbits. Which I would be rather reluctant to get rid of.

    Having a dedicated 'Read' function certainly wouldn't make things any more intuitive, frankly - it would leave you wondering whether you had to Look, Read or Use a roadsign or menu in the bar to find out what it said...