Ask Ryan

I don’t know anything about Inform 6. I searched around a little for something that might constitute at least a semi-helpful answer, but the relevant information seems to have changed over time, and I don’t know what information is the most up-to-date, and I concluded that the most helpful thing I could do would be to keep my mouth shut. I hope someone with Inform 6 expertise will post an “Ask Whoever” thread where you can resubmit your first two questions.

I am more busy in 2022 than I was in 2011, but you should send me the new version of your game and let me know what you’re looking for in testing. If I remember correctly, it was the sort of thing that might easily take more than ten years to put together. I wonder if I still have the old version somewhere…

Thank you for your questions.

Yes, Ryan. First off: Why are you so cool?

And as a follow up: Is “Clash of the Type-Ins” ever coming back with new episodes, or is that podcast series done?

Thirdly, if time permits: Would you ever consider (with or without Jenni) doing a retrospective podcast about the creation of Cragne Manor and all the hoops and pitfalls you both had to jump through and over to pull off such a large community-sourced game? Maybe you and Jenni could podcast or let’s play some of your favorite moments?

2 Likes

I’m afraid I don’t know why you find me to be so cool.

Jenni and I have talked about doing more Clash of the Type-Ins, but we aren’t actively pursuing the idea. There may never be another episode! But that’s not the same as saying that the series is done. I think it’s more fun (for us) to think of it as something we can pick up whenever we feel like it.

I am considering this Cragne Manor podcast idea of yours right now. I don’t think I would have very much to say, partly because so many of the relevant details have passed from my memory. It might be a stressful project to pursue, since the administration of Cragne Manor was such a stressful project in itself. No, I don’t think it’s a very good idea.

Thank you for your questions.

1 Like

See, that’s what cool kids say. If someone accused me of being cool, I’d get all blushy and then wait for the pig’s blood.

4 Likes

What’s your advice for newbies who want to try their hand at writing interactive fiction?

How/why did you get involved in interactive fiction?

Taco Fiction won IFComp 2011; it was your first IFComp, and only the second game you’d ever published, after You’ve Got a Stew Going, a short game, but praised for its already recognizable Veeder-esque voice and charm. Do have thoughts on how/why you were able to win your first IFComp?

How’s Patreon going? Do you have advice for other IF authors who might want to run a Patreon of their own?

2 Likes

Yeah, I have a lot of questions. Number one: How dare you?

Just kidding, I’ve just always wanted to use that line.

  1. I love Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy, and your podcast about the game is really good. How did you get the idea to frame it the way you did? I know you go through it a little in the podcast, but I’d be interested to know how you chose the order to make the episodes in, for example, since you jump all around the place (literally) chronologically. What story did you want to tell? Was it more or less random? Favorite tiles first?
  2. I know you didn’t adapt Mud Warriors to Game Boy yourself, but how involved were you and what can you say about the process?
  3. Mud Warriors for Game Boy actually seems kind of like a Bitsy game to me, and we have debated whether Bitsy is IF on this forum recently. Do you know of Bitsy, and what’s your take on that controversial topic?
  4. I really liked your IF version of The Little Match Girl, as well as your blog posts about its development. My question: Did you know that the author, H. C. Andersen, also wrote The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, both of which inspired famous Disney movies (the latter being Frozen)? It’s a rhetorical question; of course you know. H. C. was a prolific guy, kind of like you.

Maybe I’ll think of more questions later.

MY ADVICE TO NEWBIES WHO WANT TO TRY THEIR HAND AT WRITING INTERACTIVE FICTION

I think a lot of people get stuck starting out because they want their work to be good or correct and these are paralytic priorities. Focus on the thing you want to make, and make that thing, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or whether anyone will like it or whether you are doing a good job of making it.

Making something that pleases you is good for you. It will increase your confidence. (I don’t think this advice is applicable to people who are already confident, but they probably don’t need advice.) You will no longer be “just starting out;” you will be “figuring stuff out.” And, if you’re really concerned with making stuff that other people will like, the experience of having made something already will be very useful to you.

This boils down to “just make the dang thing you want to make.” If you are in the position of not knowing what you want to make, I have a separate piece of pre-advice, which is “just copy something you like.” Make your version of Super Mario 3D World or the show Bones or the poetry of Robert Lowell. You can be totally shameless about copying stuff. You will not get in trouble.

Probably everyone knows this but you should start out by making something small, because then you get to enjoy having finished something sooner.

HOW OR WHY I GOT INVOLVED IN INTERACTIVE FICTION

I was kind of tangentially aware of the IF scene for a long time. At some point in 2011 I got the itch to play The Lurking Horror again, and I hazily remembered that the application you needed for that sort of thing was “Inform.” So I downloaded Inform 7, and it turned out it was not what I was thinking of, but it also turned out you could make games with it, so I started doing that.

HOW OR WHY I WAS ABLE TO WIN MY FIRST IFCOMP

My theory about the success of Taco Fiction is very simple. It is so pleasingly elegant that I would really rather not confirm or disconfirm the theory by doing the relevant research. If anyone reading this is smart enough to know that I am wrong about this, I would ask you to be so merciful as to not say anything about it.

I think people liked Taco Fiction because it’s funny. I don’t think people usually entered funny games in IFComp in the years leading up to 2011, so a funny game stood out as being fun to play.

There are obviously other factors but I think that’s the main one.

HOW PATREON IS GOING

My Patreon is going okay. I really appreciate the people who contribute to it! I get roughly $150 each month to make whatever games I want, which is very nice.

I don’t do very much for Patreon specifically. My Patreoneers can subscribe to a secret Twitter feed (where I yak about game design in a way I don’t feel comfortable doing on my main Twitter feed), and they get to play all my games early. And they have access to two exclusive games, The Little Match Girl 2 and The Little Match Girl 3. But that’s all.

I feel like a really serious Patreon person would be doing a lot more, but I can’t justify putting in a lot more effort for $150 a month, and I don’t think expending additional effort would increase the amount of Patreon support I receive in a linear proportion. (If a bunch of people assured me that they would pledge more money if I did some particular thing, I’d certainly consider doing that particular thing…)

I strongly believe that more people should contribute to my Patreon. I like to think that anybody who’s already contributing to my Patreon is contributing an amount that’s comfortable for their particular situation, but it’s possible that some of those people are accidentally contributing too little and should increase their pledges.

I think that my fairly lazy approach to Patreon would work for other authors who are lucky enough to have a few dozen generous fans. You can give people a chance to be nice to you! Maybe that only amounts to a couple bucks, but that means you can go out for ice cream once in a while, and that’s nice. But I would strongly caution authors against starting any Patreon campaign appealing enough to cause people to withdraw their support from my own campaign. I don’t think that would be a very good idea.

I would like to stress that The Little Match Girl 2 and The Little Match Girl 3 are extremely good games. And they’re much bigger than the original Little Match Girl. The Little Match Girl 3 is like 90,000 words of Inform 7 source. (The original Little Match Girl is about 18,000, I think.) Anyone who pledges any amount of money to my Patreon will get access to these two wonderful games, and if you are audacious enough you can then cancel your pledge before you actually get charged for anything. I can’t stop you.

Thank you for your questions.

3 Likes

ON “THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO KOHOLINT”

Of course the main impetus for the podcast was the fact that the overworld map of Link’s Awakening is really really good. The density and interconnectedness of the map, the “pacing” of interesting spaces being separated by just the right amount of boring space, is better than in any other 2D Zelda maybe. I’m pretty sure the original idea for the podcast was specifically to analyze the incredible construction of the overworld map as an overworld map, and we ended up talking about everything else in the game just because we happened to be on the subject.

The presentation of the map in “tiles” suggested the format of analyzing each screen individually, the way some podcasts will analyze a film one minute at a time. This seems like a bad idea on its face, because there’s 256 map tiles and a huge percentage of them are boring. But “a ‘terrible idea’ is just a fantastic idea you haven’t committed to yet,” and this problem presented the opportunity to do a daily podcast! A daily podcast where most of the episodes are only a few minutes long. Because most of the time there’s not much to say. But how fun, to do a daily podcast for 256 days!

We divided the series into 16 “sections” or “seasons” of 16 tiles/episodes each. We assigned one “important tile” to each season. For half of them, these were the tiles containing the eight main dungeons; for the others they were the locations of plot points breaking up the dungeons, like the ghost’s grave. These sixteen critical-path tiles were sure to appear in order.

Then I randomly divided the other 240 tiles among the 16 seasons, then I randomized the order of the 16 episodes in each season. Except we wanted the place on the beach where you get the sword to be for sure the first episode, and we wanted the Egg to be for sure the last episode.

So it was almost entirely random.

ON “RYAN VEEDER’S MUD WARRIORS”

(It amuses me to distinguish my Inform 7 game, “Mud Warriors,” from the Game Boy Studio adaptation, “Ryan Veeder’s Mud Warriors.”)

I composed all the music! There’s a download link at that itch page and there’s a YouTube playlist here. Both include all the “high-res” tracks I composed in GarageBand before the project got switched to Game Boy Studio. (Lance’s original pitch was to do one-bit graphics in RPG Maker.)

Other than that, my involvement in the project consisted mostly of high-level, hands-off stuff. I didn’t program a single thing. I didn’t write anything (except the pre-title opening text); all the additional writing is Lance’s. But I believe I was the one who suggested the combat system, which I stole from For the Frog the Bell Tolls (which is closely related to Link’s Awakening, how about that), and I sort of halfway redesigned the map in such a way as to make the gating work. Actually, I have the image I used to propose that map… right here!

Big spoilers!!!

ON WHETHER I KNOW OF BITSY AND MY TAKE ON THAT CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC

I only know a little bit about Bitsy. But I am deeply grateful to you for providing an opportunity to present my thoughts on this controversial topic in a context where nobody will start any sort of debate with me. Thank you. There are, after all, many other questions for me to answer, on many other subjects.

The usefulness of defining a category like “interactive fiction” is in carving out a universe of discourse where we can usefully compare similar entities. It is not useful to attach a value judgment to such a definition—like how some people insist that art has to meet some standard of quality to be considered “art.” This type of definition precludes a bunch of useful and interesting conversations distinguishing good art from bad art.

So I don’t believe there’s any privilege or status involved in classifying something inside or outside the category of interactive fiction. It’s just a matter of whether you get anything out of comparing it to other things in that category.

I think what unites the format of interactive fiction, what makes it interesting to compare Aisle to The Cave of Time in a way that neither can be compared to Super Mario 3D World, is that it relies on a verbal presentation. You can compare how works of IF use words to build environments and puzzles and experiences. The craft of IF is the craft of making words be interactive.

Obviously almost all games use words to different degrees. I don’t think there’s a hard line along this spectrum that delineates the universe of interactive fiction. It is useful for this sort of definition to be fuzzy. But I propose this “test” for gauging the extent to which it is useful to include a game in the category of interactive fiction: What would happen if you changed the language of the game to one you don’t understand? Or what if you censored all the text in that game?

Animal Crossing, for instance, has oodles of text. Playing it with no text would be an extremely impoverished experience—but you could still catch fish, change your outfit, buy furniture, decorate your house. You could even enjoy chatting with your villagers, if only via their body language. (I played Animal Crossing in French for a long time and didn’t understand a lot of it.) On the other hand, if you censored all the text in my wonderful game The Little Match Girl, you would not enjoy yourself nearly as much.

It seems to me that Bitly can be used to create games that rely so heavily on text as to be obviously and usefully included in the category of interactive fiction, and it can also be used to create games where the presentation and interaction are so text-independent that it would not make sense to call them interactive fiction, and it can be used to make games that stand between these extremes, such that the question of their classification would be very interesting to one who takes an interest in such questions. And that would be an incredibly useless sentence, were it not preceded by so many paragraphs of such excellent substance.

ON HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

In writing the Little Match Girl games I’ve slowly learned more about Hans and his work. He strikes me as a very sweet individual, and surprisingly weird or funny or subversive in a way that’s difficult to parse from all the way over here. I like him.

The games go off in all kinds of ridiculous directions, but I try to use Andersen’s stories as jumping-off points. The Little Match Girl 2 is distantly inspired by The Story of the Year, and The Little Match Girl 3 is “inspired by” The Snow Queen in perhaps the stupidest sense of the phrase.

I would like to think that, instead of or on top of being flights of my own personal fancy, the games represent my take on his worldview to some extent. But who knows.

Thank you for your questions.

2 Likes

Hi Ryan, given the Clone High avatar (a TV show that mostly aired in Canada before it did in the U.S.) are you Canadian like I am?

Sorry if this is already public knowledge or not something you want to share. I remember Taco Fiction well but I am relatively new to the forums and not sure who has come and gone and spilled the details of where they live.

Thank you for your answers.

I just realized that this thread must have been inspired by the “Ask Dan” column on the old Nintendo website, which you mentioned on the “For a Change” episode of Clash of the Type-Ins.

I live in Iowa.

I made this GIF a long time ago. It could be useful to someone, somewhere…

cloner

Thank you for your question.

(Obviously, please feel free to not answer anything that you don’t want to answer.)

Are there any questions that would be good or interesting questions for people to ask you, or that you wish people would ask, but they usually don’t?

Is there a story behind the name “Afterward”?

1 Like

I think people should ask me more questions about my games. I have written lots and lots of games, and I find them to be extremely interesting. I think about them all the time.

But I don’t know what specific questions I think people should ask me about them.

I don’t think there’s what you’d call a story behind the name “Afterward.” I do think it’s really cool to have a username that’s an adverb. Nobody does that.

Thank you for your questions.

2 Likes

Is Craverly Heights still an ongoing day-time soap-opera or has it been cancelled?

1 Like

Craverly Heights has been running since at least the 80s, and it certainly seems like the kind of thing that will never go away. Its current incarnation might bear only a superficial resemblance to how we saw it in 2013, though. The continuity on that show is a mess.

Thank you for your question.

1 Like

I think people should ask me more questions about my games.

I’m working on an Inform game involving photography and I remember playing Robin and Orchid, which had photography as a central mechanic.

I should probably revisit it so that I can ask more specific questions, but how would you describe the development of the camera system there in a nutshell?

Did you run into any issues? Was there anything you wanted to implement but couldn’t? Did you add any features that you weren’t expecting to?

Implementing the camera in Robin & Orchid was a more or less painless process for me, because Emily Boegheim did all the work.

We did run into some issues. There were several things we wanted to implement but couldn’t—or, things Emily implemented and then had to de-implement. R&O had some performance problems, and we had to scale back certain nonessential features. These were mostly disambiguation statements along the lines of Understand "X" as Y while... DID YOU KNOW: A game with too many sentences like that will be laggy.

I don’t think the excised camera features were all that problematic on their own, but they caused extra lag when combined with the ability to look up Any Object In The Game in Casey’s notebook, which was a more important feature for us. It’s possible that these features could be un-commented-out in a different project—like yours, perhaps!

Fortunately, Emily preserved the removed features in the source text, which is available to you right here. I would like to warn you that there are big secrets to be found in the source text—stuff that most players of Robin & Orchid have no idea of! So if you stumble across any such mysteries, you are hereby sworn to secrecy.

The camera-related material starts here and ends with this section. You should feel free to steal as much of it as will be helpful to you. I think Emily’s excellent work deserves to live on in other photography-oriented games. And she says it’s okay.

Thank you for your question.

1 Like

Didn’t Cragne Manor end up demonstrating that you could have zillions of these and still be fine?

-Wade

What was the inspiration for Castle Balderstone? Were the individual segments originally ideas for standalone games, or always conceived as part of an anthology? Did you already think there might be four games in the series from the outset? Will there be further tales in the future?

I don’t remember.