In development game: opinions, advice, and conversation

Hello everyone;

I have been using the inform 7 engine for around 5 months now and have been working on a game that intends to take heavy inspiration from the classic text-based adventure games like planetfall and stationfall. I wanted to know what some long time or even new interactive fiction players and authors thought about the game. Details down below.

The game is on the equivalent of an alien world complete with 7 completely different biome systems to explore and at least 1 puzzle per area at the moment but I want to increase those numbers. I have 100 rooms in the game which feel is too small for the vision I want to get across with the game and I have been constructing a puzzle system that radically changes the world based on how you solve puzzles. For the puzzle system it works by having individual items and each item has certain properties such that you can attach said properties to a environmental piece which will then change the world.

Each environmental piece has at least 5 forms which alters how the game ends and what happens after the game ends but also how the world operates physically and mechanically. for example you have a building composed of crystalline materials well by default it may be just crystals but if you insert a large energy source into the reactor you could see sprawling energy couplings inside the walls and floors of the crystals that also seep out of it in some ways and allows for you to interact with that say energy based floating orb that can then turn out to be a computer that allows you to start the repair process on the bridge which opens another area altogether. The other half of the crystal city that isn’t entirely crystal.


Ah, you got it! Ignore my message. :slight_smile:

I’d suggest that you first try to build the simplest version of your “grand vision” that you can, and once you’ve got it working, to then gradually elaborate it.

You say you already have 100 rooms – but rooms themselves aren’t really a good measure of a game. It’s the content of those rooms – both the coding and the writing – that are the game’s content.

Worse, if you have a handful of roughly completed rooms, and 80+ rooms with “placeholder text” then they can get to be a huge de-motivational burden, because instead of thinking “oh goody! I can work on the clock puzzle” you think “£$%^&!! I’ve got all those descriptions to write.”

So I’d recommend working on small sections of your game, getting each section as finished as you possibly can before moving on to the next section. That way you’ll get a mixture of stuff you really enjoy doing, stuff you know you need to practise more, and (frankly) necessary chores.

Think of it as “hand crafting” vs. “factory assembly line”.

If you haven’t already read it, you might find the craft of Adventure (PDF file) useful. It’s Graham Nelson talking about IF.


The concept is very interesting and I encourage you to develop a game. You can use the description you have created as a document for where you want the game to be. Yes, it’s very ambitious for one person on their own, but having listed these as the things you want in the game, you can leave other ideas out on the grounds that you already have plenty of creative ideas for the game.

@Dizzydonut is right; the best thing for you to do would be to create a small version of the game. (Imagine that you need to create a demo to convince someone to buy the game). Perhaps start with:

  • 1 biome
  • 1-3 puzzles (depending on how large the puzzles are), at least one of which changes the part of the world to which the player has access in some significant way.
  • to the maximum extent possible, re-using the rooms you already have (you don’t have to use all of them for this “demo”, just what is needed to make a coherent game)
  • 2-3 items that each have 1-3 properties that can be attached, that are relevant to the puzzles you have provided.
  • Just enough plot so the player knows what they need to do to finish the “demo”.

Get enough of everything else (hints/help, connections between rooms, context, graphics/sound/music if your game will have them) so that it’s possible for someone who knows the game type and genre to independently play through the “demo”. One of my previous employers called this a “minimally viable product” because it’s the smallest version of the program that other people can use and understand what is to be achieved.

Get it tested by multiple people, preferably with different levels of experience. Get their feedback (including what could be added to the full game), take it seriously, polish it until it’s at a stage where players are having fun, game-stopping/fun-wrecking bugs have been removed and you have a system you can easily expand.

This will give you the confidence to know your plan will work, the knowledge of exactly how to do it and the beginnings of your player base (i.e. the people who want your game and will encourage you to finish it on the tougher days).

I would also recommend reading The Digital Antiquarian’s reviews of Stationfall and Planetfall, as these have a clear view of what makes these games interactive fiction classics, plus some ideas on how (dare I say it) you might create an even better take on the genre. Steve Meretzsky created some fantastic interactive fiction, but you have your own experiences - plus the benefit of being able to distill 30 years of interactive fiction experiences to which Steve had no access at the time - to help you make this game your own.


Welcome, and congrats on starting your game! There’s a lot of good advice in this thread already, which I’ll mostly echo and emphasize:

  • The fundamental puzzle mechanic you’re talking about, where you can modify the properties of the world to progress, seems neat – it’s well-suited to parser IF, which often does very well with exploration, and it seems relatively simple to code up while the possibilities are robust and could play out in a lot of different, interesting ways. So seems like you’re off to a good start!

  • In terms of taking inspiration from Planetfall and Stationfall, I think that’s also a good idea! I first got into IF in the early aughts, and only recently went back and replayed a bunch of the Infocom classics. I found those two among the best-designed and easiest to get into given my (slightly) more modern sensibilities (Plundered Hearts was my favorite, FWIW). The only thing I’d flag, which you’re probably aware of, is that players these days tend to assume you can’t make a game unwinnable, so unless that’s key to how your game is set up I’d depart from the classic models in that respect (and if unwinnability is key to your game, signpost that clearly up front so the player knows to keep lots of saves or be ready to restart!)

  • The advice about starting with a smaller part of the game, either as an initial region or a standalone “demo” type piece, is really good. This isn’t just about managing scope and ambition – it’s also because as you start to test and polish, you’ll almost certainly realize that you’ve done some stuff that needs to be ripped out and completely changed, either because the design doesn’t quite work or you’ve figured out some features of Inform that are much better suited for stuff you initially just kludged together. Taking those lessons on-board before you’ve implemented all of your game is a much easier and more pleasant task than having to retrofit the whole 100+ room, fully-worked-out beast! When I was in your shoes this time last year, I did this by structuring my game as a series of almost entirely self-contained “acts”, and refined and iterated on the first act for a long time before moving on to the second one, and this was time well spent. Of course, by the time I finished the full game, I’d learned even more and was kind of itching to start completely over so I could really do things right this time – but that’s the nature of things!

  • For a modern puzzle-y game, 100 rooms already feels really large – most players these days are used to smaller, more densely-implemented environments (my game, which wound up being probably 2-3 hours or so, had 25 rooms and 165 things, and I think if anything was seen as a bit old-school). If those rooms are also changing radically as the player manipulates the “pieces” you mention, you’re setting the player up to do a lot of wandering around a giant map looking for what’s changed every time they experiment with a puzzle. It sounds like you’ve got ideas for maybe 7-10 puzzles at the moment, but even if you double or triple that your puzzle density sounds like it’s going to be pretty low (again, not to keep going back to my game, but since it’s the comparison I know best, it might be useful to share that those 25 rooms and 165 things had probably 15 puzzles, about half of which had somewhere between 3 to 9 sub-tasks). I’d seriously consider reducing scope so that each region has maybe 5 locations instead of the 14ish you’ve currently got – and then only expand from there if you need to. It sounds like your vision of the world is that it’s very big, but it’s I think better to do that descriptively – talking about how long it takes to travel from one area to another, or requiring movement other than walking to get around the map, or having some “rooms” that are much bigger than others – than to force the player to wander.

  • This is largely a repeat of the advice above about starting small, but make sure you test, test, test – and that doesn’t mean you going back and replaying your game, but getting folks who’ve never seen it before to beta test. There are almost certainly a host of hidden assumptions that you’re not even aware you’re making, and you’ll learn more from having a stranger play your game for five minutes than you will from five hours of you testing it yourself. The beta test area of this forum is a great place to recruit folks, so definitely don’t be shy about testing early – and maybe having multiple rounds so you can get fresh eyes on an updated version once you’ve taken onboard the first round of feedback.

Hope this is helpful – and again, congrats on the game!


Where I’m coming from is that I’m a newer-ish player who likes mostly choice-based games and generally only plays newer, shorter, and easier parser games. I’ve only ever seen Planetfall for, like, an hour, and never felt grabbed by it. I also use lots of hints and aren’t fond of puzzles, and prefer NPC interactions to environment interactions. Like, Coloratura and Photopia are the kinds of stuff I like. So if I’m outside of your target audience you might feel free to disregard this.

Okay, anyways. That said, 100 rooms sounds very, very big. I hate mapping, and just the prospect of mapping out 100 rooms, especially if you have to go back and check them for changes, makes me very intimidated. If the rooms actually have something in there you need to pay attention to, the player will have to scan a massive amount of space, and if they don’t, why have them? On the other hand, apparently Planetfall has a shedload of rooms, according to this map I found off the internets, so…fair 'nuff I guess?

How long are you intending this game to be? I think newer games trend shorter and much denser, so my expectations might be different.

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100 room game sounds big. Too big for me. This gets worse if the game is puzzle based.

Puzzle based IF expects the player to examine all objects, behind, under, hidden etc, multiple times and that, to me, is laborious unreasonable punitive grinding.

I think it’s a fine line to walk, between reusing old puzzles and risking cliché, and use all new puzzles and risking rage quits.

Still, I don’t understand the attitude of people snubbing low intensity IF such as CYOA, VN, PNC, claiming that the game is solvable by trial and error, when the expectation is that traditional puzzle based IF involves grinding hell.

I guess that’s why I solved Wishbringer and Trinity, but not Zork, Enchanter, etc.

One of the best IF games is “Enlightenment”, which is a puzzle game with one room. The number of rooms is no indication of quality - it’s the nature of the puzzles that determines how good a game is.

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There’s a lot of good advice on here already, so I won’t repeat any of that. The two things that scare me as a potential player are the game size and the dynamically changing environment.

I personally avoid really large games because they are too time consuming to play. I’m currently play testing a game with over 100 rooms and it’s downright tedious. I don’t mind the mapping, but the game I’m testing has a number of lock-and-key type puzzles where you have to travel long distances over previously visited territory. You need to avoid that.

I like something that can be played and completed in a couple of nights. I get the feeling from your description that this game might work better as a series of 7 smaller games with a common thread, rather than one large game.

It’s the dynamically changing environmental factors that really worry me. This sounds like a lot of trial and error for the player, rather than logical deduction. As soon as I hit a game with lots of random factors or lots of different outcomes depending on something that seems quite arbitrary, I lose interest. The closest comparison I can think of is something like a simulation or a RPG. It feels like me versus a random number generator.

Try to increase the puzzle density. A good metric is an average of one puzzle per two rooms.

Anyway, your project sounds quite ambitious, so good luck with it.


Agree and I already went through that phase to be honest. I had the first 50 rooms made like that without giving much thought into their place in the game and when I switched games because inform can’t move rooms or make rooms after the game starts so I couldn’t make the space travel game.

So I built this game and they all have descriptions that could be slightly touched up on but they absolutely belong in the game. The 7-9 biomes are actual descriptive content in the game where as the puzzles operate exactly how I want them to.

I even figured out how to make the world transform depending on how you solve puzzles. Just want to double everything in scale to give a much more grandiose scale for the fiction elements of the world.

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Love it, I absolutely agree and I will take another look at planetfall and stationfall. Thank you.

Great advice. I will say that for the scale the puzzles are a bit more expansive then the description I gave. Also for the game world I implemented a way for the player to see other major key elements of the map in order for them to pick a direction to travel in.

For the puzzles. The game has say one puzzle in a region that when modified transforms into another object but after it does so the world will transform as well and then open up a new region/modify an existing one and that will open another puzzle but the focus was on making each puzzle blend seamlessly with the environment so that you could end up as the player modifying the environment itself which are all things in the game at the moment.

For traveling I get that it’s a bit large which is fair. So for making it a bit more understandable from the beginning I made the environment able to be seen from several higher up positions including the ship you start the game on where you can see the city, and the forest from examining the from window of the ship or just examining the area around you when you leave the ship. I was going for certain landmarks that can be seen from several areas above ground.

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Well I was taking a heavy amount of inspiration from not just planetfall and stationfall but on many polygon games as well. I wanted to sort of push the interactive fiction community forward similar to how a game like the witcher 3 pushes open world polygon games forward. An expansive but intriguing world that is always fun to explore where you can get the game in several hours but for people who want to explore you have things to explore. The struggle I have been coming up with is that the witcher 3 has many enemies and an incredibly fun combat and quest system but there are no people or enemies to fight in my game.

All in all I believe could take around a day or 2 to complete. But the push is for quality of quantity. I have 100 rooms because 100 rooms was where I found myself at when I was mapping out everything. But I want my first priority to be on fun rather than “I have no idea where to go but I think I have to do this next.”. As a result I want to shift the environmental manipulation to be a heavily detailed background piece that add more to the worldbuilding but in the end is still just part of the world and the story is something else entirely as well as the puzzles and what they mean.

I agree which is why I have been focusing on a description system that explains where the player needs to go. I don’t want to build a world where you have to explore the same environments over and over again. I want a game where each environment is like its own part of the world and can interact with other parts of the world depending on what you do with it. As for the examine everything and look over, under and on top of everything the game has mostly outside environments and there wont be much look inside a leaf pile in order to get a shovel that you can use to dig a grave. That comes with the puzzle system i’ve crafted and a typical open every drawer kind of examining is not really suited for it.

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You’re right and I agree but that’s why I made the puzzle system I did for this game. There aren’t any lock and key rooms, the environment is open. The second you leave your’ ship you have 3 direction you can go to. Really 4 but you just came from that direction. Each pathway you go down takes you down a certain area that is designed to be radically different than any if the other directions you go down. You can finish the game in many different ways and that was achieved by removing linear base game design entirely. you can go where you please and nothing with stop you even if you want to just off a cliff to see what happens. Sometimes you die other times you find yourself on another adventure.

I want to step in to shout out my love for 100+ rooms games. I love mapping, it takes up a large piece of my playtime. Gimme a large and complicated map and a fine-point pen and millimetre-paper. You won’t be hearing from me for a few hours.

Non-interactive filler-rooms? Lemme have 'em. They give the game a larger feel, are useful as pause or tempo locations, and avoid having the desert next to the rainforest.

Having said this, there are a few things to watch out for.

After the first (maybe second) round of exploring, travelling up and down a huge map becomes tedious indeed.
One way to deal with this is a hub-like overall structure, where you have distinct and separate areas in the game’s geography. (As far as I understand your description, you have this set-up at the beginning of your game.) It helps if the separate geographical areas are also separate puzzle-areas, that is you don’t need to run from area A to area B to pick up an object needed in area A.
It’s also a huge help if some sort of shortcuts show up after a certain amount of exploration or puzzlesolving. Not only does this avoid running through a few dozen rooms to get to your destination, it’s also a massive reward for the player. I’m elated when a tunnel opens up or a taxi-zeppelin swoops down as a result of solving a puzzle, creating a one- or two-move path between normally distant locations.

As for the non-interactive rooms, just be sure not to make them too nice and detailed. Use them as a beat in the tempo, a junction between directions, but make it clear that they are not interesting in themselves.

Here is a huge game that goes against much of the advice already given in the rest of this thread but that nevertheless ticks all the boxes for me. 100+ locations, complicated map, shortcuts, empty spacing rooms,… I love this one:

World - Details (

(I go into detail in my review.)

Have fun creating!


World looks like an interesting game. However, as it is a DOS 16 bit executable.

Is there a way to play this game on Win10?

Thank you

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I use DOSBox D-Fend.

D-Fend Reloaded: Features (

There are other DOSBox versions, some may be more suitable for your particular system.

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Thank you. I will give that link a try.

I also remembered that I have an old Dell laptop from 2006 that in the closet that still works. I will bet I can play World on that.


I expect if you’ve been using inform for five months you already know, but you don’t need to move rooms – you can simply change the connections between rooms during runtime. If you look at example 271 in the docs (which tells you how to make an elevator) it gives an example of a room which switches connections in this way.

Or, of course, you can simply change the room description and tell the player that they’ve moved! It’s not telling porkies if it’s IF! :wink:


But merely changing the room description requires altering things like dropped objects. Simpler just to make a new room.