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[This fits somewhere between technical writing and user experience, so perhaps this is the wrong board]

I'm developing a modification to a popular videogame (a Playstation One RPG), with the expressed goal of making in-game interface text easier to understand. There's one particular interface message, however, that I just can't reword elegantly.

Here's the situation: in the game, players may battle monster creatures. In a battle, any participant may use certain kinds of 'special abilities' by drawing on a resource called 'MP'. Each 'special ability' has a particular MP cost associated. Creatures and player characters choose an ability, then, a few seconds later, the game checks their MP resources and decides if it can be used. A character's MP may change between choosing and executing an ability depending on other characters' / monsters' interactions with them (in particular, one party can 'drain' the MP of another, making their turn fail).

Should a monster or character fail to raise enough MP, the game displays a message:

{Creature / character's name}'s skill power is used up.

This isn't helpful. In the game, 'skills' refer to a very specific sub-set of the abilities that actually cost MP. 'Used up' suggest that the creature has no MP remaining, when in fact it may have plenty - just not enough to execute one particularly costly ability.

I've tried several rewrites, but they're all either unclear or horribly clunky. For example,

X hasn't enough MP

Which seems vague (though perhaps, in context, users will understand it nevertheless)

X hasn't enough MP to perform its attack

which is prolix,

X lacks the MP to perform its chosen move

which is precise but ugly.

I'm struggling to think of any better alternatives that don't mislead the player. I'm not seeking beauty, but I do want clarity.

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Note: The only variable we can call is the caster's name. It's an unfortunate limitation, but one we couldn't overcome without considerable work. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 6 '11 at 22:15
    
It would help to know what MP actually means. Magic Points? Mana Points? –  Lukas Stejskal Aug 10 '11 at 13:45
    
Probably the former, but it is never defined either in the game or in any surrounding documentation. It's called MP, and nothing else. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 10 '11 at 18:03
    
This is an older question. It's been bumped by the system because it's been retagged, as per this meta post. –  Neil Fein Jun 3 '12 at 21:15
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4 Answers

Can the game do math? I might suggest "X needs n more MP to do that."

"You must have n MP for that move."

"Dammit, Scotty, I need more MP!" [yeah, I know, Paraborg's lawyers will come after you]

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Can't do maths beyond call variable strings, unfortunately. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 5 '11 at 20:42
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From your question I assume that the player knows the term "MP", i.e. it’s not for internal use only.

Storm my brain:

Out of MP for this task

Needz more MP!!!1!

X: insufficient MP to use [name of ability]

More MP, less failure

Get more MP, X, and try again

Cost for manoeuvre exceeds MP ("maneuver" for AE)

All your MP are belong to us!

X lacks MP for [name of ability]

X lacks MP for its chosen move

Don’t move, we have MP

X, you are out of MP; tough luck, buddy

MP - chosen ability 0:1

X: MP missing for chosen tactic

X: MP below ability threshold

That’s it. Not very stormy tonight, sorry, need some rest.

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From playing way too many RPGs, here are some of the more common messages I've seen:

  • Insufficient MP
  • Insufficient MP for [move]
  • Additional MP required
  • Additional MP required for [move]
  • Your MP is too low to perform [move]
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[X]'s chosen move requires [n] MP.

[X] cannot afford MP cost for chosen move.

[X] doesn't have enough MP for that.

Clear, simple. Although frankly, the examples OP gives of his own attempts look fine to me too (besides referring to the PC as an "it").

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Alas, we can't call the string for MP cost, ability title or anything except the caster's name –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 6 '11 at 22:14
    
Edited for better options without referring to the cost. –  Standback Aug 6 '11 at 22:19
    
"[X] cannot afford chosen move" wouldn't be a bad one. Also, the subject is an 'it' because it might be a battle monster rather than a player character that has run out of MP (the game calls the same message for both situations) –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 6 '11 at 22:21
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