I started what was going to be a tribute to Zork and the like. A classic text adventure with a sort of twist ending (as you solve the puzzles, more information about the other characters is revealed through pictures on walls, journals, etc., and the main character is met with and subsequently forced to live with the results of an ethical decision at the end of the game).
Problem is, an adventure like that of any significant size is quite a large undertaking, and this is my first game. So I’m thinking of putting it on the shelf and working on something a bit smaller first, then coming back to it later.
Unfortunately, all my ideas seem even more ambitious than this one, and I really don’t want to do another “escape the room” puzzle.
First: congratulations on knowing that you really want to scale back for your first game. That’s a really good first step to getting things done!
I’d say that the answer depends on whether or not you’re going to want to release this game to the public. If not, there’s a Time Honored Tradition of writing a “My Apartment”[/Studio/Office/Whatever] game. You focus on getting a reasonable facsimile of an actual space you know, and you load it up with in-jokes for your friends/officemates. This is a fun tack to take if you want to learn some intricacies of a language without having to pound your head against the wall to be creative about what you should even be making. You still don’t want to get too bogged down in the details – feel free to implement your favorite kitchen appliance, but if you find yourself implementing all of them, it’s probably time to move on to something a little more interesting. The major caveat here is that no one you don’t know in real life is going to want to play your game, and you should not even try to get them to do so. (Entering it into the Comp is right out.)
Otherwise, you might try playing some Speed-IFs (here or here) for inspiration, with the idea being that you’re probably looking for some ideas of a scope that a “pro” could complete in under two hours.
You could try taking a single aspect of the game you want to make, and make a little demo game around that. For example, you mentioned pictures appearing on walls. Do a game that revolves around location description changes. Do you want an NPC? Make a game where there’s an NPC that does one aspect of what you need the NPC’s in FutureWork to do - for example, the NPC moves around, or will comment on player actions.
This will not only give you potentially helpful code at the end, but also teach you about the language and give you an idea of whether that piece of your idea is workable or not.
You could also try looking at the example games in various documentation sources, and see if you can flesh them out and make them more interesting. Inform, at least, has lots of very tiny sample pieces of code that are good jumping-off points for inspiration.
Well, it depends on what you feel moved to do. You might try adding things that you’d try as a player, and add those, aiming toward a short, polished work that you could show to someone. (As a bonus, if you’re trying to get someone to work with, it’s easier if you have something to show that showcases your skills.) Or do some thorough testing to make sure things are working as you think they are.
If you’re looking for game sketch ideas, Seventh Sanctum has some truly gleeful plot and theme generators you can play with. I’m inordinately fond of the What-if-inator for its mashups. “What if George Orwell was a god?” “What if Jack the Ripper had access to interstellar travel?” (http://www.seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=whatif)
You could also consider starting on the big game you want to do; most people don’t recommend it, but I think it can work if you’re motivated enough and it’s what you really want to do. Although it’s helpful if you can build outward from a core, rather than trying to do everything at once.