Guide to Getting an Interpreter

Most of the “getting started” guides I see online naturally assume that you’ve already managed to start the game in an interpreter. Is there a good guide to selecting an interpreter and downloading a game on modern platforms?

I see a bunch of links to this guide:

But it’s not really targeted at the sort of user I have in mind. I’m looking for something with screenshots: click here, double-click there. And anyway it seems to be way out of date; it doesn’t even mention Gargoyle, for example.

The “how to” links on IFDB are pretty good. E.g.

IMO, the instructions for Windows 7 are not good for users who don’t already know how to install software: … b&os=3.127

In other words, the only people who would need to read a page like this won’t be able to follow it. And, I claim, this type of user is becoming more and more common.

For example:

  1. This sentence is unhelpful. If you know what it means, you probably don’t need to read this page.
  1. Don’t say “browser.” Most users don’t know what a browser is. (It’s a search engine, right?)

  2. It’s being served as an application/octet-stream. You don’t have to right-click to download that. Just click on it.

  3. In IE9, you get three separate security warnings when you try to download that file.

  • IE9 asks, “Do you want to run or save” (Run)
  • IE9 asks, “The publisher of WindowsFrotzInstaller.exe couldn’t be verified. Are you sure you want to run the program?” (Run)
  • Win7 UAC asks, “Do you want to allow the following program from an unknown publisher to make changes on this computer?” (Yes)

The experience would be much better if it were a signed ClickOnce application, but I’m going to guess that there are no signed ClickOnce IF interpreters in the world today, not least because signatures cost money. :frowning: But likely every professional program the user has ever installed (if indeed they have installed any software at all that didn’t come preloaded) has never warned them like this, because they all pay for signatures.

  1. This sentence is unhelpful. If you know what to do, you don’t need it; if you don’t know what to do, you can’t understand it. (“prompts?”)

  2. If you just click Next, Next, Next all the way through the installer, the interpreter will launch WinFrotz directly, prompting you to open a file. But, of course, you haven’t downloaded that file yet; that’s coming in the next step. So what do you do when that window opens? Get confused, probably.

  1. What’s the Start menu? Windows 7 still has a Start menu, but it’s called the “Windows” menu now, and it just has the Windows logo on it; it hasn’t had the word “Start” written on it since Windows Vista came out.

  2. The Windows Frotz folder hasn’t been visible by default since Windows Vista; you’d have to click All Programs > Windows Frotz > Windows Frotz. Or, better, type Frotz when you click on the Windows menu.

  1. Again, unhelpful. If you know what “a standard Windows file dialog” is, the sentence is unnecessary, but if you don’t know what it is, you’re out of luck. (Fortunately, in this case, it’s describing something that will happen, not something you must do.)
  1. For more than ten years (at least since Windows XP) Windows will automatically hide the “.zblorb” extension. If you go looking for Galatea.zblorb, you’ll never find it.

  2. Oh, I’ll just “Select” it, will I? But how? Where?

“Wherever you saved it,” you might suggest, but in fact, the browser probably automatically deposited it in the Downloads folder without asking me where to put it. At this point, I’m supposed to know to go to my Downloads folder and open the Galatea file there.

The point of this detailed rant is that installing software is actually pretty tricky if you don’t already know/remember how to do it; four lines of text probably won’t cut it. A screencast would be a more appropriate medium, IMO.

For my part, I’ll see about recording such a screencast for IE9/Win7 and Safari/OSX sometime this month.

If anybody who works on Windows interpreters is still reading this, here’s what I’d love to see:

  1. A signed ClickOnce executable. I’d pitch in for the cost of the signature.

  2. Don’t show an Open File dialog on start. Instead, show an IFDB game library, with a space at the top where you can search or paste in an URL, and a small Open button at the bottom to let me find files on my computer.

That way, the directions would be: “to play Galatea, click here to download EasyFrotz, click “Yes,” then type “Galatea” and press Enter.” Even then, a screencast wouldn’t hurt.

A screencast seems like overkill - surely adding OS-specific screenshots to the instructions would suffice? I can’t be the only person who hates watching videos for something that can be explained just as easily in text.

I’m another. Probably there are folks who like screencasts too, so both would be ideal.

I somehow suspect that people who can’t figure out how to install software using a simple GUI are on the whole not going to be particularly interested in playing games that use a command-line interface.

Also I third the motion: screencasts are an inefficient way of conveying most information.

What Joey said. To me, it’s like tryin to make formula one gp lovable to peeps who don’t want to steer. I think tablets and phones are giving “old games” a new, perfect medium. But arcade Classic lovers will stick to Metal Slug and avoid Dreamhold.

If someone doesn’t know what a “download” and a “start menu” are, and is too stupid or too lazy to figure it out, why should we care?

If this was MS-DOS, I would be more understanding. But in the age of GUIs and Windows and Macs, if someone doesn’t understand how to use their machine, then I don’t expect them to be able to play a piece of IF even if someone else would start it up for them.

Also, I find it hard to believe that “there are more and more people like that.” What, is the earth filling up with morons or something? Why? Are there any scientific studies about this? Just because someone said it in a forum doesn’t make it true. I have never met anyone who owns a computer and doesn’t know what an installer/setup program is, where to find his downloads and what the start menu is and what it does.

You can argue about people being too lazy to do a download and run a program. But not knowing the very basics of the OS? I find that very hard to believe.

For what it’s worth, I agree with some of your critique, although I’m not a Windows user and I don’t pretend to know what the kids are doing these days. You can contact Mike Roberts about it via the contact information on IFDB.

I know several such (intelligent) people, and I think the problem is that they’re not at all curious about how the computer works. If I want to do something that I don’t know how to do (or if I have a new version of some software, and am curious about any settings…), I’ll poke around a bit. If they encounter something they haven’t done before, they’ll just say “I don’t know how to do that on this thing”, and if it’s not important, they’ll move on to something else. (If it is important, they’ll ask me or someone else they know to be “good with computers”.) So instructions are important.

That said, I suspect that dfabulich’s post take the criticism a little too far. If people wouldn’t be able to understand words they haven’t encountered before, then I wouldn’t have been able to follow this forum. In school, I was probably taught less than half of the English words that are used here. “Follow the Setup program’s prompts to install the Interpreter.” should be understandable even if you haven’t heard that word describing dialogue boxes asking questions before. I hope.

There is already tons of information on the internet on how to use a computer, including documentation directly from the operating system vendors. No need to duplicate it. “Download and install this” is generic enough for anybody.