This is a slightly self-regarding post about the status of various IF-related projects of mine, since people have been emailing to ask. Warning! It’s kind of boring!
Are you leaving IF now or something?
What? No. I’ve had a bunch of real-life stuff come up over the last six months, a combination of medical and employment issues. It looks like both of those things will resolve happily, but the fall was demanding physically and mentally. Even when I didn’t have other obligations and could afford to put some time into IF, I often had the energy and focus only for easy stuff (e.g., playing and reviewing comp games) and not harder or more fiddly stuff (maintenance, programming).
To the extent I’ve needed to revise my priorities, that’s taken the following forms:
I’m looking more at commercial gaming and writing more about it (and that’s proved entirely useful and necessary as I go through the interviewing process with various game industry folk).
I’m broadening the focus of this website and my own work to be about interactive storytelling in general, both by bringing the successful experiments in IF to the attention of other gamers and new media folk, and by paying attention to advances in other areas that might inform IF in turn.
What’s up with your participation in Inform 7?
I’m not monitoring RAIF, being Inform’s spokesperson there, or doing tech support questions these days. I recommend against emailing me unsolicited source code you’re having trouble with, unless it’s a focused bug report about an example or extension that I wrote. You’re better off going to RAIF or (perhaps more accessible and less prone to flamewars) the intfiction website for guidance. Jesse McGrew has taken over a lot of the spokesperson work, and tech support is now something that many RAIFers are competent to provide.
There is, nonetheless, quite a lot of I7 work to do that doesn’t take that form. I am still responsible for managing the examples and producing new ones for new features, consulting on the new feature list, helping to revise documentation, testing out versions of the program between public beta releases, etc., and I am not planning to leave behind that set of responsibilities.
Graham and I are also still very interested in feature suggestions. As always, the best way to reach us is via email (to Graham, though you can cc me if you wish). We find it most effective to answer this kind of thing in a batch, because we tend to accumulate suggestions from many sources on many topics. But we do always go through all the material we’ve received when creating the next consultation document (unless a suggestion was so transparently correct and easy to apply that we implemented it immediately instead).
Likewise: if you have a substantial project — a game or extension you’re writing, or, say, teaching or a presentation — that is held up due to the lack of a feature or the presence of a bug, you’re welcome to email about that as well — email me and cc Graham, because I’m the person who is likely to answer first. I am indeed busy these days, but requests concerning showstoppers on major projects are a high priority for me and I try to provide some prompt answer to them, even if all I can give is information about what to expect from future builds.
The more information you can give about why you need the feature/bug-fix, the more likely we’ll be able to accommodate you in some way; occasionally we can’t do exactly what the requester wants, but are able to offer an alternative fix. (Then again some things will just necessarily take a long time to do.)
What’s happening with the conversation library that went into Alabaster?
I don’t have a deadline for when that work is likely to be complete. How much time I have to give to that project, and how much I’m ultimately able to polish the tools for it, will depend hugely on how my employment options turn out over the next year. (There are promising possibilities, but I’m not sure how things will go, so I don’t want to discuss them yet.)
However, when that package gets finished, we do expect to include it with Inform 7 on the same basis as the other included extensions — something that would be automatically available to all users, mentioned in the main documentation, and supported through language updates. I would like it to be compatible with the framework extension Eric Eve has provided for things like implicit greetings, but it will provide its own set of rules for designing quips, etc.
If I have sufficient time and resources, I hope also to make available some of the visualization tools I’ve been working on to help authors see *how* the conversation is shaping up.
Whatever happened with the Theory Book?
The IF Theory book is on a semi-permanent hiatus, having never quite recovered its organizational direction since our original publishing plans fell through and various other issues came up. Again, this is dependent on how things go for me over the next year; it is possible I’ll have time to return to it. I do have a volunteer to help who knows a lot more than I do about the practical aspects of editing and type-setting a book. But there are no guarantees about this, and it’s lower priority than lots of other things. Many of the originally intended articles are available on line, which is a partial consolation.
I do apologize to the people who put work into the project that it has dragged out so long; at the same time, I’m very conscious that starting it up again would require a lot of reassessment of content, because IF has moved on very substantially since 2003 or so.
The iftheory website is broken — did you know that?
Yes. The original website for the theory book has been hacked to contain spam links to random junk sites.
This is not something I can fix. As far as we can tell, what happened is that the domain lapsed and was bought up by a spammer, who then reproduced the original page… but with spam links in it. Which is despicable, but I don’t have any real recourse. If I get the project up and running again, I’ll make a new website.
Are you going to rerelease Floatpoint?
At some point, I’d like to rewrite Floatpoint, taking on board all the criticism it received on version 1 and making it substantially longer and with more conversation. That’s something I’m starting to have the tools for as the conversation library becomes more robust.
Again, though, time is a concern, and this is a lower priority for me than assorted other work, including both new WIPs and the conversation library itself.