TriadCity Message of the Day

The first cut of TriadCity's long-awaited "natural language parser" is online for your free-from-the-bounds-of-command-syntax enjoyment.

What's a "natural language parser"? A ten-dollar Computerese jargonload meaning, the computer takes a shot at figuring out what you're trying to say, freeing you from having to memorize TC's sometimes arcane little command lingo, super-simple as it is. Instead of being forced to type "look in bag", you can now type "show me what's in the bag", or "look into the bag", or "what's in the bag?" - and presto-chango, the computer knows what you're on about. Read on for a large but incomplete list of working variants.

Like so many things TC, we've implemented this in our own quirky way. We really need a patent lawyer, 'cause we've invented tons of technology for TC which might be useful elsewhere. In this case, instead of adding super-bulky NLP libraries to the TC clients, we've built our own little simple algorithms for translating what we think you might type into the canonical TC lingo. The upside is that we've kept the clients light and fast; the downside is that we can't fully guess what whacky language convolutions all you millions of TC-playing punters might come up with. So we'll carefully log the new parser's mistakes, and use them to "train" it over time. It'll get better pretty much every day. We believe that before long it'll be superior to the very best Interactive Fiction parsers out there. Sweet achievement, if we're right.

As of today we've trained it for the 50 "basic" commands everybody needs to know. We'll add a few more every day, focusing first on the Role-based commands used by Herbalists, Thieves, Rangers, Malopaths and so on. The parser's included in both the classic Java and new HTML5 clients, and, it's on by default. You can turn it off via the Preferences menu, but leaving it on should make no visible difference, even if you prefer to stick with the canonical syntax.

For the most part, you'll want to continue entering commands in the imperative mood, as you did before. You're giving commands, after all. So, usually, your commands will begin with a verb, and end with the object. This seems intuitive to us, and makes the job of the parser a lot simpler.

After some indecision we've decided not to allow substitutions for certain skill-based commands. For example, to attack an opponent with a razor you'll still have to use the Slash command. Our thinking is that allowing generic substitutions such as "attack the guard" which'll figure out the correct skill-based command for the weapon you're wielding devalues the skill. But, we're open to persuasion. If you disagree, use the Fora to set us straight.

Here's a partial list of the ways you can now look inside bags:

  • look in bag
  • look in the bag
  • look into the bag
  • look inside the bag
  • see in bag
  • see in the bag
  • see into the bag
  • see inside the bag
  • show me what's inside the bag
  • tell me what's inside the bag
  • what's inside the bag?
  • look in 2.bag
  • look in the 2.bag
  • look into the 2.bag
  • look inside the 2.bag
  • see in 2.bag
  • see in the 2.bag
  • see into the 2.bag
  • see inside the 2.bag
  • show me what's inside the 2.bag
  • tell me what's inside the 2.bag
  • what's inside the 2.bag?
  • look in the second bag
  • look into the second bag
  • look inside the second bag
  • see in the second bag
  • see into the second bag
  • see inside the second bag
  • show me what's inside the second bag
  • tell me what's inside the second bag
  • what's inside the second bag?
  • look in the 2nd bag
  • look into the 2nd bag
  • look inside the 2nd bag
  • see in the 2nd bag
  • see into the 2nd bag
  • see inside the 2nd bag
  • show me what's inside the 2nd bag
  • tell me what's inside the 2nd bag
  • what's inside the 2nd bag?

And of course there are more than that: you can still substitute "l" for "look"; and you can use syntactical shortcuts such as "l in 2nd bag".

As noted, our implementation requires "training" to become more and more useful. To help, all you have to do is type things the way you'd naturally say them in English. At first you'll experience frequent failures: the "My father made a typo like that once" messages. But, you'll see the results improve steadily as we work with it.

Watch the MOTD for more interesting things rolling out over the next few weeks.

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