January Link Assortment

Sam Kabo Ashwell has some wonderful posts on the experience of This War of Mine (1, 2) and The Long Dark: the atmosphere, the emergent narrative, the experience evoked by their systems. This bit from his review of The Long Dark particularly struck me:

Having been lost in the Northwoods before, I can say with all confidence: the biggest, scariest threat you face is that you will walk for days and days and never, ever see a single trace of human influence. Never encounter anything shaped by humanity into something that facilitates transport, shelter or food. As moderns, we are hugely, continuously dependent upon the work of other hands. That fear, the fear of a totally non-anthropic environment, is something that is almost impossible to make interesting in the purely human-made context of a game.


David Welbourn is one of the quiet heroes of the IF community: for years he’s been helping to maintain ifwiki, assembling the eligibility lists for the XYZZY awards, and creating loads of high quality walkthroughs and maps. He has an enormous amount of patience and an encyclopedic knowledge about many corners of IF history. If you have any regular contact with the IF community, you’ve almost certainly made use of some of his work, even if you’re not aware of it. I’m delighted that he now has a Patreon, which will help him with scanning and internet costs and make it easier for him to continue.


Rowan Kaiser, Austin Walker, and Alex at While !Finished wrote a series of articles on choices in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and in particular about which of those choices are emotionally resonant:

Alex writes:

One of the most difficult choices in the game, for me, happened in the Solas romance storyline, which is only available to female elf Inquisitors and therefore a minority of players. Near the end, Solas reveals the true meaning behind the Dalish elf’s face tattoos: they were originally slave markings, from when elves enslaved other elves. The Inquisitor can let Solas remove hers, or she can keep them. Does the knowledge of their origin taint them? Or are they a part of her and important to her, no matter what their original meaning? What does she believe?


The discussion of IF fanfiction brought up that there actually is some on archiveofourown: I found an alternate ending for Galatea and a prequel to Alabaster (which digs even deeper into some of the mythology around Eden and Adam’s wives before Eve). There’s also a wonderful story set in the 80 Days universe that explores some of the background of automata with souls, and the lion-like automaton of Burma, one of my favorite figures in the game. And here is an Inform game about a Fallen London character.

Continue reading “January Link Assortment”

Inform 6L02

Panel15A good deal of my IF-related time in the last couple of months has gone into Inform, and I’m pleased to say that the new build is available today for Windows and Mac (and other apps to follow shortly). There’s an introductory blog post here that gives an overview of what the new build does; there’s also a change log, which is absolutely mammoth, here.

There are loads of new things going on, but I’m particularly excited by Inform’s new adaptive text, which I see as a partial step towards making the system more capable of doing interesting things with procedurally generated text output. The adaptive text allows Inform to inflect verbs according to the current tense and viewpoint of the story, automatically turning “[We] [walk]” into “You walk” or “He walked” or “We will walk” according to the current settings.

But it goes considerably beyond this. The new example “Narrative Register” shows how to associate verbs with different actions, then have the narrator automatically describe what has just happened with a verb that is appropriate to a current “diction” setting. The “Relevant Relations” example associates verbs with relations as well, and shows a way of doing room descriptions in which the author tells Inform which relations ought to be described to the player, leaving the system to assign appropriate verbs and construct sentences around them.

These are all fairly early-days things; there’s a lot that would still need to be done in order to get from here to the kind of text generation I would one day like to see, including (especially) some code designed to do a good job of sorting and concatenating related sentences before printing them.

But Inform can now track the meaning of its output more deeply than it did before, and perform more grammatical functions automatically, and that’s a helpful step.

Tools and Characters: March and April meetups

We now have two more meetups scheduled for the Oxford/London IF group:

2:15 PM, March 30, in Oxford: a session on IF tools. Graham Nelson will present his most recent changes to Inform 7, and Eric Eve will introduce his adv3lite library for TADS, and we’ll open to a general discussion of IF tools.

7 PM, April 8, in London: a session on character modeling, led by Nicholas FitzRoy-Dale. We’ll look at what has been done and what current mechanics support, and talk about possibilities for the future.

Threaded Conversation Public Beta

“Threaded Conversation” is the extension I used to build Alabaster: a large and complex piece of work implementing a lot of my ideas about conversation modeling for use with Inform 7.

Threaded Conversation is capable of handling several styles of interaction: old-school ASK/TELL, something closer to menu conversation, or (the default) a prompted ASK/TELL similar to the default TADS 3 conversation system. It dovetails with some of Eric Eve’s conversation extensions to automatically handle greeting and saying goodbye to characters. Without implementing anything as rigid as a dialogue tree, it has a concept of conversation topics, recognizes when the player significantly changes the subject, allows for NPCs to direct conversation towards areas of their own interest, and is capable of tracking character knowledge separately from the way the character might choose to express that knowledge. I’ve successfully used it for both two-person and multiple-person conversation modeling.

It does not include any built-in features for artificial intelligence on the part of the NPCs, but because it has a concept of “things the NPC wants to say urgently/at some point in the future” that can be freely adjusted, it dovetails reasonably well with author-designed code to determine what the NPCs should want to say next.

The intention had always been to polish and revise this extension and its documentation, then release it for use by the rest of the community. In practice, what happened was that I got it a good way towards the finish line and had an extension that I myself was happy to use, but that was probably incomprehensible to other humans. Occasionally someone would ask me for a copy and I would send it off… and never hear anything more about it, presumably because the people receiving the code weren’t able to do much with it.

Then I changed careers and life paths into one that leaves me a lot less spare time (and where I’m doing enough coding in my day job that my energy when I’m done winds up in other places). The good news, however, is that Christopher Conley stepped forward and volunteered to do the work needed to adapt Threaded Conversation into something other people could use.

He’s revised the code and documentation, and is now looking for volunteers to beta-test the extension and its documentation. If you’re interested, check out his posting on the intfiction forum for contact details.