LFC on a parser-based sci-fi narrative game in Inform 7, a longer-term project

Post-hoc edit: If you’re finding this thread in the future, I’ve decided to heed the advice given in the discussion down in the replies, and am retracting (for now) my request for collaboration. I have some work to do to reconsider how my project could be sharded and perhaps released as smaller sections. When I have a clearer idea about what external help looks like in that frame, whether that’s for playtesting something smaller, asking for feedback, etc., I’ll make a new request for that.

I’m going to leave the original post intact below in case you are curious what it was.

Hi everyone. This post is dense, but I’m hoping that by organizing this post in this specific way, I’ll be able to clearly communicate what my project idea is, what collaborative help I’m looking for, and what my expectations are. I’ll be more than happy to answer any follow up questions you may have.

The game

The game I’m making is a parser-based science fiction game, written in Inform 7. What I’m aiming for and trying to create is more narratively focused than puzzle focused, but not entirely devoid of problem solving. The crux of the themes I’d like to explore in this game will be narrative driven.

Work I’ve done so far

Over the last several months, I have done some work to lay foundational pieces for this project:

  • I have taken a body of notes in the note-taking application Obsidian to help organize the worldbuilding: thinking about the setting, the people, the problems/challenges that will be present, themes, as well as a rough outline for an overarching story.
  • I participated in NaNoWriMo last November with the intent to give me a creative impetus to give narrative form to the story skeleton. The result was an incomplete draft, but it was still worth going through the process, as it allowed me to iterate on what the narrative structure might be.
  • I have the beginnings of an Inform 7 project where I’ve started to implement some few things: a few of the rooms at the beginning of the game, implementing the functionality of a key object that will serve as a core mechanic for the game, defining a few new actions and rules, and some descriptive prose.

This has been a very slow burning and plodding process, but intentionally so.


I’ve currently set a goal to have this complete for Spring Thing 2024 (for clarity, next year’s Spring Thing as of this writing). Having my sights set on Spring Thing 2024 is intentional for a few reasons:

  • I think that the game I have in mind will likely be too large for IFComp (I know things can change and my perception might be off, but my back-of-the-napkin guess is that this will likely be longer than a 2 hour game)
  • I want to give adequate time to build, test, and release something my potential collaborator(s) and I can be happy about
  • Setting my sights on an IF festival/competition for release will, I think, help timebox and properly scope the project

I have these additional goals in mind:

  • I would like to release this game as an open source game at its completion
  • Gaining the experience of creating and finishing a polished work of IF (as well gaining experience working in Inform 7)
  • To continue to try to tangibly engage with the IF community


I feel like these are important enough to call out to merit this separate section.

  • I do not and will not seek monetary gain for this process and from a published game
  • I’m not angling to use this as a springboard for professional game development or for clout chasing

The collaborative help I’m looking for

While I initially set out to work on this project alone, the reality is that I think this project would benefit a lot by asking for collaborative help. I think I have a lot of good foundational pieces in place that would otherwise allow me to make it alone, but ultimately, I don’t currently think doing this solo will be for the best.

It’s important to note here that this feeling partially stems from the fact that I have not released or published an IF game before. I have specific reasons for wanting to have a project like this be the first game I release, and it’s mainly due to what I know excites and motivates me when I work on something creatively.

Given what I’ve done so far and what I’m looking to still accomplish, I’m looking for the following kind of collaborative help:

  • A collaborator who would like to work on a long-ish term Inform 7 parser-based project with a goal to release something for Spring Thing 2024.
  • A collaborator who would be ok with the project being a non-professional passion project. I have a full-time job, so work that I do on this project will fall outside of my normal working hours.
  • A collaborator who is ok with the idea of releasing this game as an open source game at its completion
  • The current story idea for my game, I believe, could really use collaborative help on its narrative and pacing. There are things about what I have right now that I’m not satisfied with, and I believe really needs outside perspective. So, I’m looking for a collaborator who would like to work creatively on the narrative core of a game like this.
  • To add to that point on outside collaborative creativity, it’s just as important to me that this story is inclusive of others’ lived experiences and perspectives that I do not and have not had. It’s really important to me that I get that right, and is something I just simply cannot do by working on this project alone. One concrete example that I hope illustrates what I mean is that I would like this game’s protagonist to be female, and I think it would just be better for me to ask for collaborative help than to make any attempt to write that narrative by myself.
  • While I would say not strictly necessary, it would be a huge help to me if you already have some familiarity with Inform 7.
  • This also applies if you have previous experience releasing or publishing IF. Not required for this project, but would nevertheless help greatly.
  • Not knowing how this will be received, I think I’m looking for one other collaborator. I’m open to reconsidering this if it turns out that more people need to work on this project. My instinct is that one other collaborator will do.

What you can expect from me

If this remotely sounds interesting to you, then I’d like to talk through some things I think you should know about me, my particular style, things I do well, things I don’t do well, and my expectations.

Even though I haven’t released an IF game yet, I do like working in Inform 7. While working on the foundation of this game, I have also spent time pouring over Inform 7 guides (like Jim Aikin’s Handbook) and built-in documentation to help me grasp the language’s core concepts and syntax. I feel comfortable working in Inform 7, but I would not necessarily call myself proficient at it. I know enough to know how to find documentation or discussion to problems I run into.

I am willing to correspond virtually over any number or combination of mediums, written or verbal. I’m not currently looking for in-person collaboration. So this would mean I’m willing to correspond via email, on Discord, on Zoom, on these forums, or any number of other, similar communication tools. I’m based in the Pacific time zone of the United States, and would be generally available most weekday evenings and very flexible on the weekends.

From an organizational perspective, I work best with a little bit of structure. If you’re familiar with NaNoWriMo stylings, I am a Plantser. Basically, I try to organize my work in a way that allows for variability and some winging it, as well as flexibility to try to account for unforeseen events, but not completely without structure (as my goals and what I’ve done so far as described above hopefully illustrate).

Stylistically, these are the kinds of games that deeply resonate with me that I draw interactive creative inspiration from (broadly speaking, not just for this specific project): Myst (and its sequels), What Remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home, Counterfeit Monkey, Of Their Shadows Deep, The Stanley Parable, Firewatch, and The Talos Principle. Thematically, based on these influences, the crux of the kinds of narratives I want to tell, and indeed, what I really want to explore in this game are ones centered on the examination of the human condition. Why we choose to do what we do. What drives us to find hope, meaning, and purpose in what we do. How we respond in varying matters of challenge. And so on.

As you might infer from this post, my prose tends to be on the verbose side. I prefer rich descriptions, but I also try really hard to temper and refine my words and not overdo it.

It’s important to me to not treat this project and potential creative partners like it’s a second job. Yes, I have a specific end goal and release target in mind, but this project is not to be viewed like the most important thing in my (or your) life. It is a passion project for something that deeply interests me. I will treat this as an opportunity for me to grow and learn, and to actively participate and engage with the IF community. I mentioned it in the Non-Goals section, but it bears repeating here: this project will not be used to create a product and it isn’t for prestige. I want to experience the process, the joys and the frustrations all, of creating a piece of interactive fiction, seeing it to completion, and then sharing it with this community. I want to do this within and as part of a supportive community.


This is a lengthy LFC, I know, but I really hope this gives you a clear picture of what I’m looking for, the game I’m making, my goals, and a bit about me. Thank you again for your consideration if you’ve read this far. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Your pitch is clearly thoughtful. However, even if I was in the market to join such a collab, you are pitching a massive project. And you say you don’t have one Inform project on the board yet. This factor and others add up to a lot more ask than I would ever consider joining with someone I don’t know.

This forum sees a high number of pitched projects and engines. The majority don’t get completed, and I’m not sure I’ve seen a non-engine collaborative project pitch as big as yours before.

My suggestion: Start with just a stretch of your game that could be made self-contained and will play satisfyingly on its own. Create it (two words, but that’s a massive project already!) and then you’ll have something you can use to pitch the larger project. Something that’s real and on the board and demonstrative of your skill and aesthetic, and which then suggests to outsiders you can bring about the bigger thing.

If you could achieve this much by next Spring Thing, from the position of having made no Inform project, that would already be mighty impressive. Then continue to move forward from there.

Trying to finish the big project by next Spring Thing, unless it’s a collaboration that’s actually tiny in output size, really sounds beyond possibility.

I say all this as someone in year four of working solo on a not dissimilarly-themed project (large sci-fi parser game, narrative-strong) and who only finally obtained additional time to work on it by Kickstarting it last year.

Good luck with your Inform trajectory.



This does sound like an extremely cool project!

If you don’t get any takers for collaboration, I’ll just point out that this forum is chock-full of smart, opinionated people who love to engage with thorny coding and plot questions. You already have collaborators just by being here; all you have to do is post the questions you have about what you’re doing.

@mathbrush is making a ginormous game in sections, and gets testers and feedback for each section. Could an approach like this work for you?

My first project was an unreasonable one for a noob, and thankfully nobody told me (although they probably thought it) that I was being a dumbass to start with something that ambitious. That was the project I wanted to do. I feel like the entire forum collaborated on that game, and that’s how it got done. So while @severedhand has an excellent point that starting small is wiser, that advice would not have worked on me (nobody has ever accused me of possessing excessive wisdom). But you CAN break it into smaller chunks as you go.


I’m very thankful and I appreciate both of these perspectives, @severedhand and @AmandaB. They give me a lot to consider and think about. I’m thinking about how my project could be broken up into discrete sections, and my instinct is that that approach probably would reasonably work for how my game is structured, though I’d need to sit down and work out some details with that in mind. I think it’s a very reasonable suggestion.

I like this a lot. You must be referring to Never Gives Up Her Dead. Yeah, I think my project would benefit from an approach like this. Thank you for reminding me of this.

I think my inclination is to fold some parts of what you’re saying into my approach. There are very good pieces within your wisdom. That also means that I’d need to reconsider my request for collaborators, because the expectations would necessarily change, which, I’m thinking this is probably a good thing for me to take one step back (temporarily) and incorporate what you’ve said into what I’m trying to do.

Even though I’m in the beginning stages of the game, I’ve always had the inkling that this kind of project was likely going to be a multi-year project sort of thing. I’m of course also not immune to the pitfalls of undertaking something as large as this, by reading others’ accounts of their experiences with such projects. So, both of your advice and wisdom I will heed gladly. I can be stubborn, but I think I’d be foolish not to listen in this case.

Rest assured, I’m not completely tossing the project idea, but also I think I have the benefit of still being in the early phase to be able to take some time to reconsider how to section the game. I’ll take a day or so to think it through and will edit the original post accordingly.


Unless I missed it while skim-reading, I don’t think you described the story idea, other than to say it’s science fiction. Some specifics would probably help entice potential collaborators.

There’s nothing wrong with tackling a large project as your first project, if you’re passionate about it. But the sheer size of the project does create an additional pitfall for the author(s).

According to the website, IntroComp is returning in 2023. You might consider assembling your starting excerpt and entering it in that.

With respect to possibly breaking a large story into sections, I did that with my Leafstone fantasy saga (easy to find on Amazon if you spell my name right). It’s one ginormous story, but it’s broken into four discrete books, with what I hope is a satisfying semi-happy ending to cap off each of the first three books. So I know it can be done, but it requires some careful planning.

With respect to your original post, you mentioned wishing for some help with the narrative and pacing. Unfortunately, pacing is impossible to control in an interactive medium. It’s probably easier in a choice-based system like Twine than in a parser game system like Inform, but it’s still not something you can control.

The narrative core (nice phrase – I like it!) is the story you’re hoping to tell. You might find it useful to pick up a couple of books on how to shape a story in conventional fiction. In IF, the rising action has to be handled a bit differently, but giving your lead character a clear goal that is both important and difficult to achieve is exactly the same, in my experience. In the absence of a clear, important, and difficult goal, the narrative is just going to flop around.


I was thinking this as well.


This is absolutely valid, and I did consider including a blurb in the original post, but decided against doing this. I wasn’t trying to be coy, just… I think I weighed conveying the nature and size of what I was asking for more than the story itself. I think if I incorporate others’ advice into my overarching strategy and subsequently have a narrower request for testers and feedback, I will almost certainly include a blurb (and possibly more). So, I still appreciate this perspective.

I think this indeed will be something I’ll keep an eye out for. I appreciate this suggestion.

I think I probably overstated this part in my original post, because, you are correct about this. The main crux of what I was trying to convey was just that the overarching structure of the story is sort of there, but it still feels unwieldy, and it’s been difficult to reconcile that against the way I’ve envisioned the implementation. The point is well taken here though.


It’s not in my experience. But maybe we mean different things when talking about pacing in a game.

There are a bunch of options for the author to control the player’s sense of pacing.

A simple locked door is probably the most straightforward example. It guides the player to other sections of the map to explore. Planting a key for the door on a desk in plain sight will give a different experience than hiding a blueprint for an intricate safety lock.
Exposing the player to backstory and exposition offers choices too. Short bursts of information on computer screens or an encyclopaedia readable in its entirety. Do the computers have password protection? Does a glass casing protect the book? The player is guided along a path designed by the author, in the tempo intended by the author, to find the passwords or a hammer, passing through other areas of the map as the author planned.

There are a lot of ways the player can try to diverge from the author’s path or spend their time loitering, but there certainly are ways for the author to control the pacing to a certain extent.

-I’d say that Guild of Thieves or your own Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina do not employ pacing, or very little.
-On the other hand, Slouching towards Bedlam and The King of Shreds and Patches are games with strongly paced narrative throughlines.


That simple example utterly destroys your thesis. If the player cannot find the key, the story grinds to a halt. The player can blunder around the setting for an hour searching for the key to the locked door, an hour in which absolutely nothing happens in the story. The pacing has been slammed into the dirt. And that’s the normal experience of playing a text game.

Pacing is the manner in which and the speed with which the story advances. When the story does not advance, the pacing has been destroyed. And in a parser game the author cannot control the player’s experience of the forward movement of the story.

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Then the game presents a slow and grinding pace (perhaps frustratingly so, to the point of rage-quitting). If the game revolves around thoughtful exploration of the space or reading large volumes of lore without obstructing progress with puzzles, it has a calm and relaxing pace. If the game includes a chase over the rooftops, feeding the player the appropriate verbs in the location descriptions while she runs and jumps, that game has a frantic pace.
(For this last one, I’m specifically thinking of the chase in Shadow in the Cathedral)


If there are no puzzles, it’s not really parser IF. It’s a choice-based story. Pacing can be controlled to a considerable extent in choice-based IF.

I disagree with this considerably. There have been a number of excellent puzzle-free games that definitely are parser games… they simply don’t fit the old-school mode, which can be refreshing. Figuring out navigation, special commands, and a game’s point can be puzzles in themselves, so in that light, all parser games are necessarily puzzle games. But I appreciate parser games where the point is something other than solving a puzzle. @DeusIrae 's Sting comes to mind as an excellent example. Several of my own parser games are extremely puzzle-light, and it was a deliberate choice to use the parser for a different kind of game. I’m surprised to hear that they aren’t parser games.


Would Sam Barlow’s Aisle count as parser IF?



This goes right to the heart of our disagreement and shifts the conversation to a whole new direction. (Let’s do the Photopia-dance again!)

To me, “parser” has a minimalist definition: if I type GO WEST and I get to read a new room description of a location west of my starting point, I’m playing a parser game. (I know this doesn’t do justice to the real work parsing machines do under the hood.)
Whatever the author wants to do in this framework is parser IF. (Galatea, Curses!, Spectators, all parser IF)

You have a more content-related definition of “parser”, including the associations with puzzle-fests.


I overstated my case. Sorry about that. It’s absolutely true that a puzzleless game can be written in Inform or any other parser system. The only valid commands might be the compass directions, LOOK, and EXAMINE. It would be a parser game, or at least a parser story.

The only point I was aiming at, however ineptly, is that the moment you introduce a puzzle, you (the author) start to lose control of the reader/player’s experience of the pacing. You can’t control whether the puzzle is as easy as you think it is, or whether the reader/player finds it baffling and is stuck. Being stuck (which happens to me a LOT when I play games) reduces the speed of the pacing to near zero. That’s all I was saying.


6 posts were split to a new topic: Game Pacing - with Puzzles or Implementation Depth [moved]

I must say that in the ‘old days’ - pre internet : If I was stuck I would either persevere or ask other ‘friends’ who played IF to see if they could assist. These days, with walkthroughs, hints and internet help - I find it way too easy to take the easy way out and just search for the answer - and therefore negating the ‘buzz’ you used to get in ‘discovering’ the answer yourself (even with ‘a little help from your friends’ ) - a shame really, as the thing that drew me to IF in the first place was that ‘buzz’ - I always remember getting to the ‘end’ of the babel fish puzzle in ‘Hitchhikers’ and had that euphoria for about a week afterwards!