Yes, and to me it’s the time and completeness that are important here. What can the tools do to help? What if your development environment included a thesaurus with grammatical info about how the words are used, and could suggest alternate constructions, or even just build them automatically and show you the code for your approval or rejection? That sort of thing.
A bunch of things that I dislike about current parsers seem to be a direct consequence of the archaic VM technology used to run them. Like the whole thing about words or names being these immutable tokens that have no internal structure and maybe only even represent the first X characters of a word. I feel like we see a fair amount of problems like this Dialog thread. If you look for questions about trying to make dynamically-named objects in Inform I think you’ll find more similar problems.
You could do other interesting things if you removed that limitation, like letting users rename things. It’s very easy for authors to make things that are extremely hard to type. What if every game let the player work around that?
Other Inform limitations that seem crazy to me (even though as a programmer I can certainly understand how they might have come to be): I believe you can’t have an object that is both a container and a supporter. And you can’t do multiple identical items at all? And support for doing things with multiple items seems patchy and ad hoc? You can generally
take all, but doing other things with multiple objects seems to work or not work based on whether the author decided to support it, rather than being built into the engine.
If you have the time to spare, I’d recommend trying out the Discworld MUD for an hour or two. It was started around the same time as Inform (I think it opened to the public in 1992?), but comes from a different background: constantly being worked on by a substantial group of people while other people are playing it. And they have a very serious system for getting new authors up to speed, and rules for how to make good content, and such. It’s far more dense than any other MUD I’ve ever seen. To me it makes most of them look like sparse half-finished prototypes. It’s more CRPG than IF, but also has lots of one-off set-piece puzzles (though many of them do use the stat system as well as just being puzzles) and hand-written interactions.
It has an alias system which allows you to not only rename objects but is essentially a tiny scripting language. It handles disambiguation and duplicate objects extremely well (there are maybe twelve different currencies in the game, and you can say things like “get Ankh coins from satchel” or “give three rhinu to Fred” or “sell 7 torches”). It does containers and liquids fairly well. And there are a whole bunch of different in-world languages which your character has to learn by practicing, which is super grindy but also hilarious.
I dunno. I think the differences are interesting and instructive. And the game is fun too, if you’re into that sort of thing. It gets grindy pretty quickly, but there’s probably a good 10 hours worth of walking around looking at and talking to and just messing with the world, even if you mostly ignore the RPG bits.