Authoring IF when can only work very sporadically

Thought I’d start a thread about where I am with my writing, in case anyone else is in a similar position / has suggestions.

Very unusually I’m long term ill with a progressive neurological illness, which has wiped out the last two years especially for me (I’ve been seriously ill for 27 years since age 22) as in 2020 we tried an experimental reduced treatment, and then my disease repeatedly flared throughout 2021. So IF has been on the side burner for 24 months, apart from some judging/reviewing of IF Comp managed miraculously.

I’m starting to come out of the latest flare and wanting to write IF again. I generally write parser games in Inform 7. I’m a very old timer and it’s the style of IF I’m most used to, and have coded in for decades.

I’ve various old projects in various stages of development, and find myself returning to those. On the one hand I’m inspired by my design notes, and keen to move on. I prefer to design with pen and paper before coding, or swap between the two in spurts. My games tend to be episodic, using scenes in Inform 7.

On the other hand I feel a bit like an excitable puppy, not sure what to play with or sniff next!

The four main games I have currently in development are:

1/ a Lovecraftian one, mostly coded, but lots still to do

2/ an Arthurian esque one, only tentative starts to the coding, but loads of ideas on paper

3/ a conversion/expansion of a MUD castle/quest I coded back in the early 1990s in LPMUD, converting it to a Scottish ghost game now.

4/ a museum set piece, exploring history through artefacts in the museum, which you are responsible for as the curator

Of these the second one currently excites me most, so I think I’m going to give it most attention for now. Mainly designing on paper - eg I was working on more this afternoon - before coding. At least being episodic it does lend itself well to intermittent development.

The Lovecraftian one is closest to finishing but I think I need to be more mentally alert and well neurologically to polish it properly.

The ghost one is fun, and excites me, but needs more planning.

And the museum one is an aspirational future goal, though I have scribbled down tons of design ideas for it.

I suppose my main question out there is how to manage game development effectively when you can only work on it very sporadically and unpredictably. How to keep the enthusiasm etc.

For now my plan is to go with my hunch re what appeals to me most. I also know there will be long periods where I can’t do anything, so won’t fight that. But I’m hoping to creep forward with things. Though not setting any goals or deadlines.

Anyone else out there in a similar position? And if so what approaches work for you? Thanks :smile:


I don’t know if I have much advice, but I am in the same boat: Not with my health, but IRL issues cut down the contiguous time I can spend designing a game.

The only thing I suggest is perhaps try to always have a laptop nearby when you can steal a moment. Always have a notebook with you, or use voice-memos, or some type of note-collection app on a phone or the laptop such as Evernote or Scrivener so you can jot things down and everything is together when you do get free time to work.

If you are working on a laptop or on multiple computers, keep your work saved in the cloud so you can access it and won’t be stuck somewhere when you find a moment without the latest build of your project.

Hopefully others will have more useful strategies!


One extra thing I should add is that I am extremely heavily sedated for much of the time due to the neuro disease flares and progression. That and sleeping up to 15+ hours a day often. So very, very little good usable time. We’re talking potentially weeks or months between a few productive minutes here and there. So rather extreme :wink: But all tips are appreciated, which may help more folks than me.

I think probably there’s a part of your brain that’s always working on those ideas, no matter what else is going on. And that IS work. I agree with Hanon that every time an idea pops up, be able to write that down. And please don’t do it like I do, on random napkins and used tissues and in the margins of books.

I also have a bunch of game ideas working, and for me the most frustrating thing is keeping to one at a time. I might be working on one and suddenly have an urgent idea about another. So I feel like a hyperactive butterfly bopping around aimlessly sometimes.

Keeping enthusiastic about a project can be tough, because there’s always that time where you look at what you have and think, “This is total crap.”.


For me, ideas flow when I am actively engaged in the writing process. I too have many games in the oven, all of them have potential. I too have medical issues that caused me to retire and continue to raise their ugly effects. :frowning:

I keep reminders for each game in my smart phone. They pop up periodically giving me nudge. I keep detailed notes in the Scrivener App and the flow charts (maps) in Trizbort.

When I have good times, I can review and let it flow. When I am active in the development stage, ideas just pop up. I ensure there is always a method nearby to document the ideas.

Never know, someday I may just flood the IF metaverse with games that at least mean a lot to me.

I am looking forward to your work. I have no doubt it will enrich all of us.


I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working on multiple overlapped games. Obviously some are further down the line than others.

I’ve been developing a process using Obsidian, where i have a directory of “ideas”. I might have a random idea at a random moment, go in and edit one of the ideas. Sometimes i just go in and tidy things up.

I synchronise the whole “ideas” folder to the cloud, so i can work anywhere and also as backup.

I should add that, through the “ideas”, i started evolving a template for design. Basically the intro, the plot synopsis, technical brief, then chapter/mission/challenge details and finally the ending(s). They don’t always get written in order though :slight_smile:


Thanks folks for the helpful comments already. All much appreciated :heart_eyes:

And yes @AmandaB: “I feel like a hyperactive butterfly bopping around aimlessly sometimes” is it exactly!

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I have small kids, so I’m in a somewhat similar position, I suppose… I also have a few IF projects in progress, but I’ve also made other, small non-IF games in the past.

My recommendation would probably be to focus on one game, preferably the one you’re furthest long with, and try to finish that one. It means less mental load while working (since you focus on one game), less mental load afterwards (since you have one less game to think about), a tangible reward/achievement at the end, making it through the hardest part (actually finishing and polishing a game) without ditching it to work on the others, etc.

Of course it’s hard to keep your interest in one game throughout its development, and there’s also something to be said for working on what you have the artistic drive to do at any given time. But with limited time, I think a singular focus would probably be the most beneficial.


Been musing this some more, fired up by some of the great suggestions already.

I think I’m going to have one main project to focus on, but with the proviso that I can look at others if the mood takes me enough. I am a bit of a multitasker generally!

One thing I should do though is make more use of the cloud for syncing ideas and writing. For example I’ve found the Ulysses writing app helpful - it’s a MacOS and iOS program - and could definitely make better use of it. I already have an interactive fiction folder within my iCloud Ulysses storage, and have previously started writing game snippets. But I think it would help me to do this in greater volume, and it has the big advantage that I can note ideas / writing at any time on any of my devices when awake/alert.

The downside of multiple things on the go is it can be easy to drift, and not make forward progress. I think that drawing up a list of tasks to be getting on with would help. Some sort of low grade project/task management. Anyway I can definitely see more lists coming my way!

Thanks all so far. Really good thoughts from all, which are helping me think about things afresh.


RE note taking and list making when designing a game: I had some wine last night (maybe a tiny bit more than “some”), and I had a great idea and scribbled something about in the margin of the book I was reading. This morning I remembered that I had an idea but not what it was. I found the note in the book, and it said “Make it go out.”

What?! Make what go out? Out of where? Now it’s making me crazy.

The moral of the story is: Drink wine because you’ll have ideas.


This seems really interesting. Never heard of Obsidian, but I just downloaded it. Just so I understand the setup, you have an “ideas” Vault, in Obsidian terms? Or a directory inside the main Vault?

Thanks again to the encouraging ideas from others I’ve started a task management project in my rather old copy of OmniFocus, that syncs via the cloud between my iThingies and Mac desktop and laptop. There are other systems out there, but I’ve always found this a handy way of tackling not too deep hierarchical projects to complete. It helps me see what I need to do, and helps me see what I can get on with next (a choice of options). Here’s part of that (hopefully not too spoilery):

I’ll need to finish the rest of this task/project overview / to do list tomorrow, but that’s a great start. And should help me keep moving forward, in spurts.

I also plan on using Ulysses more as I said to write more game chunks and plan out the logic of scenes. That, too, syncs between all my devices via the cloud. It’s a different approach from Scrivener, which doesn’t suit me as well, but another helpful writing app.


Drinking wine frequently gives me ideas too that I can’t remember after too :wink: Must resist the box of wine waiting in the cupboard …


I created a folder called “ifideas”. Then i point obsidian at and create “vault” from directory. This creates a .obsidian directory inside so it can keep track of settings etc.

What i like about obsidian is that it’s just a viewer over ordinary files. You can edit those files in whatever you like.

Then i create a directory for each “idea”. Let’s say i have one called “dracula”. Then inside that, i create “” which is the design document, then also i create a “media” folder, where i put pictures etc.

Then i type into the file, make a few sections then i put in some links to my media pictures using drag and drop.

I don’t use the obsidian sync function, i just sync my “ifideas” folder with Onedrive/google or whomever.

At first i didn’t think much of Obsidian. After all, what it is really doing? But after a while, I’m finding it really quick to make swift edits.

BTW, i disable all markdown extensions to keep it standard, then i use Typora to generate PDF and HTML versions of my design documents.

Hope that helps.


You mean you aren’t writing whilst drinking the wine! :slight_smile:

Over here, I’ve developed a new concept after all this “lockdown” malarkey. It’s called “working from the pub” :slight_smile:


I’m in similar position. The main thing is keep a journal record. The most important thing is the Design Document. In my case, I design it so that it’s doable in 15 minutes sessions. Of course, usually that stretches out to 30 minutes, but at least the plan is there.

Long periods of not doing anything is a killer. Do your best to make progress every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes per day! Ideally, of course, you would have several of these 15 minutes sessions. After all, everybody has 15 minutes per day.

As to what you do with your 15 minutes is up to you, but my experience is that unless your Design is solid, your Development time will suffer.

A very familiar problem! I forced myself to Develop one program at a time. However, I Design on paper freely! Can’t let those good ideas get away! :grinning:


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Sadly not, I’m afraid. My case is really extreme, as I said, but I am very heavily sedated for much of the time because of a progressive brain disease that is like frequent strokes crossed with multiple sclerosis. I can’t do anything usefully productive IF-wise for often weeks or months on end. It is phenomenally disabling. But I am taking in all tips! And I would definitely be interested in knowing more about your Design Document process. Eg how you structure it, what software or other tech you use, etc.


Oh, I’m so sorry. I misjudged the severity of your case. Well, in your case, I suggest keeping a portable pocket size digital audio recorder with you at all times. Dictate the Design while you’re eating or something, and have somebody transcribe the content for you.

In my current working TACK plan, I listed out all the Rooms and Objects, and I’m coding them in one object at a time. Later on, I will code the Action (one verb-noun at a time) and Message (one message at a time) section. You may remember the sequence as ROAM technique.

I tested out the plan on my Golden Goose game using ScottKit. That one does take a few hours, split into 2 afternoon sessions.

I’ll post the result later once I have coded my first game. It’s longest on the first. The rest can use copy and paste relevant passages, as well as some automation scripts.

In my view, it’s best to have all the Design on paper before coding. It makes Coding a painless, mechanical activity. And you don’t need a computer for that.

I suggest trying things out with ScottKit as it lends itself to simple games, ones that can be produced quickly. Especially good for check the Design, one puzzle at a time.

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