Hey all. Some of you may remember that I was working to introduce Inform 7 into schools and some children’s groups. I found if you kept your aims modest, this was really easy to do. The current trend is creating text-based Minecraft games or games based on Ninjago. (If you don’t know Ninjago, just think “Kids + LEGOs + Ninjas” and you’ll have it.) Another popular one kids like to play around with is based on Legends of Chima. (LEGO again.)
That’s all fine and good but lately I’ve also been using Inform 7 to expand the minds and thoughts of developers and testers. The details of why and how would probably bore everyone to tears, since it has a lot to do with how BDD type tool solutions are used extensively across the information technology arena. (These tools let you use natural language statements to indicate requirements and tests that are then executable as automated test code. Examples are JBehave, Cucumber, SpecFlow, Behat, Lettuce and so on.)
Along with all this, I’ve been putting up a few posts that some of you might be curious to see. They are under the Inform 7 category on my professional career blog:
You’ll notice my examples there are not as colorful as those in the Inform guides; mine instead focus on the mechanics and just the mechanics that are relevant to learn the task at hand. That means my examples are admittedly on the parched side of dry, but have been very useful as a foundational starting point.
I’m honestly not posting this to generate traffic to my blog. I’m just always looking for feedback so … feel to let me know your thoughts, positive or negative.
Hi Jeff. Thanks for pointing me to your blog. I’m lurking here, picking up bits of knowledge and trying to put them to use in my spare time in a story/game to amuse my nine year old (and hopefully get her interested in making something eventually) and the first post alone is well worth the read.
Thanks. I’m glad some of the material was useful. Eventually I’m going to put up some more kid-centric posts, or at least more focused on how adults and kids can work together with Inform. I’m using some off-time now to engage a group of my son’s friends from school. I’m introducing Inform 7 as part of their creative writing courses when school starts up again, so I’m trying to find the best ways to get kids involved.
It’s been particularly fun to storyboard ideas with them and then take those storyboard concepts and translate the ideas into Inform. You run into interesting challenges but I find that when you document in a way that is eminently focused on the mechanics first, retention rate goes way up as does the ability to experiment. It’s essentially making sure that people can get the Inform idioms down without making it seem totally boring.
Happy 2017 all! It’s been a while since I was here and this blog series was one of the last things I brought up.
I still work with interactive fiction, almost entirely in the context of teaching children of varying age groups about programming ideas. Perhaps the most important of this, and that which I am most proud, is introducing these ideas in a suitably framed context with children dealing with autism.
Most recently, as part of my career, I started using Inform 7 as a means of introducing and/or promoting the ideas of exploratory testing. You can see the current posts here:
Some of you may remember that I worked with writers and screenwriters on the moral premise of Trinity. This time around I’m using a version of Trinity that will have some modifications from the original game to showcase ideas. (I had permission from Activision years back when I did initial work on this; I’m not entirely sure I still have that permission – my contacts are no longer there and the Activision Legal department didn’t seem to care one way or the other.)
We’ll see how well this goes but I’m finding the ecosystem of Inform 7 is perfect for this kind of training, particularly in terms of treating testing as a design activity, not just an execution activity. In this current series, the next bit I think I’m going to do is introduce the old woman selling the bird crumbs. There’s a lot of interesting things to think about there from a testing perspective.
I’m also trying this approach out with some live interactions at companies I consult with. It’s a lot easier to do this live than via a series of blog posts so I’m working to figure out the best way to present all this as I go. What’s been most interesting is interleaving the ideas from teaching children to teaching testers. And I intend no disrespect by that correlation; if anything, learning to think more like a child is one of the best things you can do to harness creativity, inquiry, and investigation.
That’s a good point. I initially did that purposely, mainly because those first three Inform 7 posts were not at all about exploratory testing and certainly not using a running example. I do link to the Inform 7 category in the initial post, but – yeah. I’m wondering if I should just add the tag. I appreciate you bringing this up because it was something I was thinking about and relegated to the backburner for a bit.
It’s been interesting so far. I’m gradually implementing that “woman selling bird crumbs” and it’s been interesting to see how people engage with an emerging design and think about what they would test.
I’m not sure how far I’ll take the blog series since it still is much easier to do this in live interactions. But I was thinking of adding elements that are traditionally hard to model well and thus add a lot to testing. For example, maybe fire or water. So with the revised game I’m doing, maybe once the air-raid sirens start going, something ends up starting a fire that slowly engulfs Kensington Gardens. There would be a lot there for a tester to think about, particularly if they can harness the fire in some way.
What’s also been a fun challenge is to describe just enough about Inform in order for someone to feel the challenges are fair, in terms of being able to reason about them, but without having to simply regurgitate large sections of the manuals. So that, in turn, has refined how I think about teaching interactive fiction outside of the tester context.
Incidentally, for those curious about Activision’s stance on the old Infocom games, I finally heard back. They don’t seem to care what I do as long as I don’t claim credit for the game. I haven’t even been told to stop distributing the original Trinity yet, which I link to on the generated Inform site.