Another day, another extension

Have uploaded to the Inform extensions page updates of Locksmith and Facing, and a new extension called Approaches. Approaches implements a GO TO… command as found in the manual, but produces somewhat more elegant output, coping with cases where the player’s movement is blocked by a door or some other kind of movement requirement. For instance:

You go north to the aforementioned unwelcoming hut, north again to the unattended pathway, north again to Paris and west to Bois du Boulogne.


You go north to the dusty street, then head west to the church. Entry into the church is barred without a hymnal, though.


You go north to the open field, then head north again to Seamus’ Hut. Unfortunately, you find you lack a key that fits the hut door.


You go to Crimson Chamber by way of Grooved Channel, Shallow Jade Amphitheater, Silver Filigree Prison and Mandarin Casket Room.

or… well, many other variations of your own devising, really. If you try it, though, remember to make sure you have the new Locksmith, too.

Three Room Description Styles

As die-hard I7 authors may know, I’ve had available for some time a Room Description Control extension which allows for greater control over how room descriptions are printed — in particular, what we want to leave out, and what order we want to print descriptions in.

Room Description Control requires, though, a kind of front-end extension as well, to form the paragraphs of the description. Until now, there have been two options, neither of which really conforms to the default Inform description.

I have now released a third version, Ordinary Room Description, which tries to stick as close as possible to the way Inform prints descriptions by default, allowing the author to use the special abilities of RDC without giving up other aspects of Inform’s room description printing.

After the break there are examples of output from all three variations: Single Paragraph Description, Ordinary Room Description, and Tailored Room Description.

Continue reading “Three Room Description Styles”

An Example with Compasses

People often ask me for examples of Glulx multimedia designs; and since I happened to be working on something with an easily extracted lesson, I’ve taken out the relevant code and made a separate project of it.

The idea is that we have a graphical sidebar along the left side of the screen that functions in place of the game’s status line. At the bottom of that sidebar, next to the command prompt, is a clickable compass rose that displays the available exits in each room, and indicates which of the exits lead to already-visited locations. (This is pretty much a combination of the screen layout from City of Secrets with the color-coded compass from Bronze.)

In a finished game, there would be cool pictures and stuff in the upper part of the status bar, or maybe a clock indicating the game time, or some kind of score-counter, or a whole glistening dashboard of steampunk gears and dials tracking seven simultaneous kinds of progress…

But for this example, we just do the compass rose. Here it is, with green letters for new places and white letters for familiar ones:

Pillaged Village

Anyway, if that all strikes you as interesting, you can try out the gblorb file. Or you can run it for yourself:

  • make a new Inform project
  • copy my source text and paste it into your source panel
  • if you do not have the extensions I use installed, download them from the extensions page and install
  • download my Figures folder
  • unzip the Figures folder and put it in the Materials directory of your project
  • run

(Edited to add: the gblorb file produced will probably not run correctly under Gargoyle or Spatterlight, because they do not use the most up to date version of the Glulxe interpreter. For these purposes, I recommend Zoom on the Mac and Windows Glulxe on Windows.)

A Speculation

Thesis: Many of the most memorable non-player characters in IF are ones the viewpoint character already knew before the game started.

Supporting positive evidence: Michael from Anchorhead; many or perhaps most of the characters in Robb Sherwin’s games; Miss Sierra and Princess Charlotte in Varicella.

Suggested explanation: it’s really hard to get to what is interesting about someone in the first few minutes or hours of acquaintance, so in games where we’re meeting everyone for the first time, a lot of energy has to be wasted on the building of trust and mutual figuring-out.

Also, the viewpoint character can’t make any general observations about the history and personality of other characters, because he hasn’t known them long enough — so the whole tool of direct exposition is off limits. Showing and not telling is good a lot of the time, but telling can be a valuable shortcut when you want to get to the interesting parts of a relationship.

Play It Yourself

On a previous post, we’ve been discussing what makes a game feel like work to play, and what doesn’t — and a lot of the answers come back to matters of polish. Is the game bug-free, or close to it? Are puzzles well clued? Are there responses to lots of unexpected commands? Are boring, repetitive actions omitted? Is the space easy enough to understand that the player doesn’t need to map? Does the game help track important clues for the player, so he doesn’t have to take notes?

People keep recommending beta-testing as a way to find and correct such flaws. This is good advice, but it misses a point I think is just as essential:

Play it yourself.

Continue reading “Play It Yourself”