Online multimedia thoughts

Is Parchment going to fully support glulx one day? IE - a game will run the same way in parchment as in Gargoyle or some other interpreter, including pics, sound and the status bar.

I ask because… I was thinking about Vorple and realising I still don’t fully understand the Vorple/Parchment relationship, and wondering if things like multimedia are only going to be the province of Vorple in an online setting.

I’ve got a project going for which I thought ‘I want the online and offline versions to be the same.’ But I kept hitting one hurdle after another. As you may have noticed from my status line hooplah topic last year, this project has got a very-important-for-the-game status line. But that’s not supported online. I’ve been learning glimmr to make a graphic automap, but that’s not supported online either. That whittles off two major features of the game, making me think ‘Well, the online version is so cut back, it doesn’t have a lot of point.’ But there’s this push to make everything web playable. I’m like Peter Pears in that I want there to be an offline version of everything, but I also want to just make things accessible and have a web version if I can, because I still view the world of interpreters as a big hurdle to players. There’s no interpreter you can recommend that is cross platform and does it all. Gargoyle is the closest but… no preferences support in the app. You can’t write a press release for a game which just says ‘download game here’ or ‘play game here’ - you have to go through the interpreter mire, and I’m certain that knocks some people away you’d otherwise get.

This litany of complaints probably reads like a litany of complaints. But I’m not a toolmaker, I’m an author. I’m just thinking about practicalities that are relevant for projects I want to make. So having thought all this through, I want to ask if there’s a sense of when any of these features (status lines, graphics, audio) are likely to work online. Like, do they work now if I use Vorple? If not, are we thinking months or years away, or is it totally unknowable? This could change what I’m doing or how I’m doing things. I think Quest has already got all these features going online, but I’m not a Microsoft PC user, otherwise I’d try it. Cheers.

  • Wade

You don’t need Windows - you can create a Quest game on any platform using a browser:

It even works pretty nicely on iPad Safari.

Oh cool, thanks for the point out Alex.

  • Wade

As ever, these things progress at the speed of whoever is prepared to put in the time and effort to work on them … Hopefully we will get there one day. I know there is work going on to include Vorple in the next Inform 7 release, so progress is occurring.

It is also worth saying that things like Parchment and Vorple operate entirely on the client-side when using a web browser, so they don’t need a server, or even an Internet connection: you could simply have all the files in a directory and point your browser at that and it will work, and in that sense there isn’t really much of an online / offline distinction.

Here’s where I7 stands at the moment:

  • Glulx online interpreters Quixe and Parchment do not support multimedia. Most offline Glulx interpreters support multimedia.
  • Vorple supports multimedia online, but for Z-machine only. Z-machine does not support multimedia offline.

Basically it means that you can have multimedia either offline or online, but not both.

Fortunately there’s a workaround: It would be relatively easy to set up the I7 project to use either Vorple or Glulx multimedia, depending on whether you’re compiling in Z-code or Glulx. When releasing the game you would first compile in Glulx to get the offline version, and then compile again in Z-code to get the online version. You would of course be bound to Z-machine limitations, so this will work only with smaller games. (Or, as David suggests, release the online version as a downloadable zip file and call it the offline version.)

As for the future, Glulx support for Vorple is definitely coming, but I can’t give an exact schedule. Could be a couple of months, could be a year. When it’s ready you’d compile to Glulx and the story file would automatically use either Vorple or native Glulx features to play sounds and show images, depending on the interpreter.

I know multimedia support for Quixe is being planned, but I don’t know the details.

Quixe should currently support the stuff you’re doing with the status line, at least, though if I remember right you’d have implement the colors with CSS; they won’t automatically follow the glulx styling you set up via game code. And Quixe can also do the unicode version of the automap (also in the status line by default, but you could redirect it to another text grid window). If you wanted to put in some non-trivial javascript work, you could implement a map-drawing algorithm in javascript and pass it data from your game via Quixe. But I would only seriously suggest that if, as DavidK suggests, you wanted to consider yourself to be building a game for ultimate distribution via web technologies (regardless of whether your players download the files or play them online).


I’d love to have done more with Parchment, but I got quite demoralised when I tried implementing the Glulx dispatch layer, it’s very complicated! I guess I’d appreciate help with that, but I’m not super enthused about doing it right now.

Thanks for the info and observations guys. (And to the developy times, for the tools!)

  • Wade