I just spent hours on rec.arts.int-fiction reading posts and trying to acclimate myself to the froup. They sent me here. No problem, just another bump in the wheel.
This was my post there. I would like to chat about this with some people that have current knowledge about the IF situation and the best tools for authoring them.
I just read through the last six months worth of posts. Yes, it took a little while.
I am old enough to remember the golden days of Infocom and their ilk.
Based upon what I have read here, why should I even be here?
I have some ideas to get the art form back up and running. It isn’t the “ancients” like me; it is my grandchildren. My oldest granddaughter is now reading, likes figuring things out, and Zork is a little too complicated for her. We need some games that challenge the beginners. I am creating one specifically for her, but I have six more behind her. Not all of them will enjoy reading, writing, and interacting, but we have a lot of children who can utilize this kind of medium to enhance reading, put sentences together (an enhanced parser to help) and interact with the story.
How about some discussions about things like this? Technology behind doing it? Parser issues? Feedback? Storylines? Appropriate content? Desirable stories?
Unless I happen to hit the jackpot, I am not looking to become a professional author of IF. I just want my grandchildren to read, write, think, and interact a lot better than their contemptoraries (intentionally misspelled) in school.
These games from a competition a few years back might be of interest, especially the first two: ifwiki.org/index.php/IFBeginnersComp
So, the traditional model of amateur IF has generally been of a kind of peer-to-peer nature: smart adults (plus a few teenagers) writing stories for one another. But the first IF game was designed by a father for his children, and a good number of second-wave IF authors are now at around the age where they have children old enough for IF, so there’s been a modest trend towards children’s games in recent years (Aotearoa, Six and Lost Islands of Alabaz are the ones that spring immediately to mind). (Still, I think that the formative experiences of most IF authors were as children who played games made for adults, and found them attractive precisely because of that. Lord knows that when I was eight I mostly thought that child-targeted games were kind of stupid, and preferred to play grown-up games even if I didn’t quite understand everything.)
As far as storylines, desirable stories and appropriate content go, those are one of those discussions that don’t happen all that much here, because they’re not really all that different from discussions that happen in the rest of the non-IF world. “What sort of content is appropriate for children?” is not a particularly IF-specific conversation: for better or worse, it’s mostly a settled issue in the broader culture, and whether a particular IF author wants to follow convention or push back against it is… not really a question about IF, if you follow me.
On the other hand, we do have plenty of discussion about technology and parser issues, but we don’t distinguish much between adult and youth audiences when we do so because, well, these aims are generally pretty much congruent. (If anything, I’d guess that children are better at learning new systems than adults are.) Also, because the IF community as a whole probably has a lot more understanding of adult pedagogy than of primary/secondary pedagogy. (I can probably name you a dozen IF folks who are or have been professors or career academics; I can’t think of one who teaches primary school.)
All that said, this is a thing that plenty of people here are likely to be interested in, so if you were to start a particular discussion I’m sure that you’d get responses. (David Cornelson’s thing at the moment is IF for school markets, f’rinstance.)
If you’re just looking for games that work for children, there are a number of polls on ifdb. Dennis Jerz has also posted a number of videos of him playing IF games with his son, I think.
“Mother Loose” by Irene Callaci is definitely good for young kids. I think of “Lost Pig” as a kids’ game too, but I haven’t looked at it lately to check the vocabulary.
If I were writing a kids’ game, I’d stick to very simple parser commands. I’d also (as Eric and I did in “Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret”) make sure there’s no way to die or get stuck. There’s always a path to victory.
Whenever this subject pops up, I make an obligatory to “Nellan is Thirsty” being the first text adventure (well, second if you count Crowther) expressly created for children to play.
Well, I let the discussion go on for a couple of weeks and the replies were very nicely tailored to what I was specifically asking. During the wait, I did a lot more investigation into the IF market and came to realize that while it seems to have disappeared, it really didn’t if one was willing to do some extra work to find them.
Some of the tools available for writing them seem to be nicely balanced and fairly mature. After some extensive reading, Inform appears to be the method of choice for me but TADS comes in a very close second; though it looks a little rough just yet and also looks like it isn’t going to get any major improvements unless someone decides to take that project on a little more dedicatedly. (Yes, I chose to use a non-word.)
So, for my own benefit, from those of you who are somewhat active in the IF genre, would I be spinning my wheels by pursuing Inform? Do you have any specific criticisms or benefits that come to mind? I can work around some of the known issues, but getting jammed by bugs is hardly any fun. The language syntax is decent, but is still lacking a lot of flavor to prevent many things that need to be coded around. Of course there are the extensions that are available as well, which can also be a plus.
So, you people were a help already and I thank you for your assistance. I guess the current question is really: What are you using and why are you using it?
I used Inform 7 when I thought I could write a game, because it appealed to me the most - that’s the bottom line and the one you should probably use.
Specifically, it didn’t try to hide that it was a programming language, but it was very accessible to me, personally. What little programming experience I had with AGS (and I was quite adept with AGS) left me with very a clear head for thinking in terms of programming logic; all I needed was someplace I could put that head to use without having to learn a bunch of different terminology. ADRIFT, Quest, SUDS - they just didn’t appeal to me (and I actually bought Adrift v4 many years ago!). Inform and TADS were the big choices. And I went with the one that had done most of the work for me already - laid down a framework I could bend anyway I wanted to, in a manner that pleased me aesthetically and conceptually to no end. And when I learned of the versatility that Inform’s Almost-Natural Language offers, well, that was a hell of a hook.
On another note, how does TADS seem rough? The documentation is a tricky manner, yes, and it’s not easy to plunge into it, but it’s a major engine capable of most anything you could wish for and then some. It’s one of the leading engines, perfected and expanded on for years, and remains the tool of choice for many authors, especially those who favour world-modelling over narrative experiences.