Has anyone met ALAN?

ALAN’s a curious thing, isn’t it? It’s been around for donkey’s years and it still obviously being looked after (the website is up to date and the latest release seems to be September 2021). But it appears to be little used or talked about. Any particular reason why, or is it just a case of it failing to gain traction in the very small and saturated niche of parser-IF?

Just curious.

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At least 60 games developed using it, so it has fared better than some systems…


It looks quite nice. The syntax isn’t too heavy handed, but it could be a bit lighter.

I was looking for a game sample tutorial. I did find some game sources, but wanted a “hello world” game.

I might try building the sources.

Cloak of Darkness is considered the “hello world” of parser IF:



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Thanks for that.

However, this example is either badly implemented or shows faults with Alan.

Having a second “dark bar” then having to stub out all the popular verbs is terrible. What happens when you add a new verb. Or worse, need other areas that will be dark. It’s a fault of COD to have only one dark location as it can be special cased.

Also, it seems there is no concept of wearing the cloak. And it being on the hook also a special case. Suppose there were other things you could put the cloak on.

I feel I’ve played more ALAN games than some, and historically, it wasn’t handy for me to run them on the Mac. It required launching a custom interpreter from the command line. This was usually in the context of IFComp, too, where there were 30+ other games that were easier to run. I don’t know if the situation was the same outside the Mac.

I know the Gargoyle interpreter has supported ALAN for years, but even so, a new ALAN game might be sufficiently bleeding edge (in ALAN terms) that it required using an ALAN interpreter more advanced than the one in the last available build of Gargoyle, and then you’re back to using a command line interepreter, or hacking your copy of Gargoyle.

So, my perception of ALAN was that the games were always harder to get going than other systems’. And that’s something that can stop authors using a system when there are multiple alternatives. But it’s also apparent some authors who really like ALAN (e.g. Anssi Räisänen, Robert DeFord) would use ALAN in any case.

I can’t speak about it from an author/programmer perspective. I’m happy with Inform so I never go trying alternatives.



I see Cloack of Darkness is a game to test different authoring systems as spanish Vampire.

It is. I’ve never used it as an author, but I’ve played quite a few Alan games and I’ve generally been quite impressed with them. I guess it was hard for it to compete with the popularity of Inform 6 back then. Alan has a very clean syntax that looks easy to understand.

There aren’t too many games with source code. For Alan 3.0 games with source code, check out the games by Bruce Humphrey, Felix Plesoianu and Thomas Nilsson. These aren’t tutorials, though.