Can anyone tell me why TADS 3 isn’t more popular/widespread than it is? It’s a great language, and the library is pretty incredible…
Software platforms have a “rich get richer” problem: everybody uses the platform that everybody else uses because everybody else uses it. If you’re inspired to write a game, you’re most likely to be inspired by an Inform game, and you’re more likely to use the system your favorite game used. If you have an Inform question, there are more folks available to answer it.
There’s more documentation for Inform, more technical support, more/better interpreters (especially note that iplayif doesn’t support TADS, so IFDB doesn’t offer a Play Online button for it).
The latest Parchment actually does have TADS support… but so far as I know it’s both the case that the TADS support is considered experimental and that iplayif.com isn’t running the latest Parchment.
There are a few, shall we say, “quirks” of TADS that I can think of that might be off-putting to newcomers (in addition to the entire “momenum” thing @dfabulich pointed out):
- The Workbench is only available for Windows, whereas Linux and (especially?) Mac users seem to be over-represented in the IF community
- The Workbench and HTML TADS interpreter look like something straight out of Windows 98 (because they are – even the most recent builds still target Win98 and are apparently built using VC++4.0)
- The entire “single quotes/double quotes” distinction that I haven’t really been able to wrap my head around myself
- The seemingly more complex syntax (by the time you realise that I7’s syntax isn’t as simple as it looks, you may already be halfway through writing a small game)
- The occasional random crash when using certain features
- Looking through the Library Reference Manual, the phrase “No description provided” appears rather more frequently than I’d like
- Online play is much harder to set up than with Inform (let alone Adventuron)
There are other posts like that. Just search for Inform vs TADS or something.
There are various reasons why people adopt certain platform. ScottKit isn’t for everybody, but I like it very much! As far as Inform vs TADS, I think it’s because Inform is good enough, and whenever people run into problem, questions are answered quickly and well. Good support overall.
The fact is, most people’s introduction to IF is via Infocom/Inform games, and naturally gravitate toward such systems. Without a good reason to move to other platforms, people simply stay with Inform.
Bob Bates did have a good reason, and wrote his game in TADS. YMMV.
Perfectly summed up! We’ve wrestled (and continue to wrestle) to get people to at least try tinkering with ZIL/ZILF before retreating to the safe haven that is Inform. As you rightly say the sheer amount of resources alone make Inform the first choice.
I think there’s more to it than that. Inform6 used to be number 1, and yet Inform7 entries outnumber I6 4 to 1.
Take a look at Twine, and see how much the default library get discarded for new ones.
Renpy was, and is the best and well known VN maker out there, but it’s not good enough. It also doesn’t have well known competitors. What happened was that there’s simply less VN made overall.
It’s not all popularity contest. Power, Accessibility, and Convenience all factor into it.
VNs in the last 10 complete years, according to VNDB.org:
2020 - 3101
2019 - 3124
2018 - 3531
2017 - 2957
2016 - 2949
2015 - 3009
2014 - 3219
2013 - 2997
2012 - 2902
2011 - 2708
Apart from a blip in 2018, the consistent trend for VNs is that there is an increase of about 200 visual novels one year, followed by a second year at the same level before the next jump up of 200 or so visual novel releases.
There are more visual novels made than at the start of last decade. It’s just that the visual novel community has increasingly turned to tool-specific and VN-specific sites for information, and spent less time in any other part of the interactive fiction community - for better and for worse. (While the increase in VN’s ability to self-support is good, I think the community would benefit from greater exchange of ideas with people who create and play text adventures and choice-based non-VN interactive fiction).
Without champions, systems die.
Newcomers tend to not trust their own eyes and ears as much as they trust the group opinion when it comes to an area they are unfamiliar with. Inform is the de-facto goodness when it comes to the meat and bones of pure parser game mechanics, and I certainly would not offer a dissent on that.
People with a pre-existing affinity or skillset tend to be biased towards the tools that they know already.
In a growing market then you can set up your stall, sell your wares, and some people will like your niche features and you gain users, in a static or declining market, gravity is king.
Neither TADS 3 nor Inform 7 have received updates in a long time, so in a way, now is the time the status quo could be disrupted. On the other hand, despite some bugs, they’re both still solid platforms and reliable choices. If what you want to write is classic parser IF, then they’re still excellent.
TADS does have a significant amount of learning material, actually similar to Inform 7.
TADS: Quick Start, Getting Started, Learning, Tour Guide, System Manual, Tech Reference, Library Reference, Into to HTML TADS. Adv3Lite: Library Ref, Manual, Tutorial and example source code. (Most of them 100s of pages long - Written by Eric Eve) That is just the references included in the source code - others available on the internet.
The learning curve is initially steeper than I7 but is a much more detail rich world model is available. Adv3lite is SOMEWHAT similar to I7 with its constructs. Some (me included) feel that I7 becomes more difficult as you implement actions that are less than basic. Adv3Lite is not a watered down version of Adv3 includes a feature set that are the most commonly used. It well worth consideration.
I am looking at hosting a Winter TADS Jam that would take place well after IF Comp. I will publish the details shortly. Maybe there would be some interest. (Nov. 14 - Jan 15 entry period followed by judging via itch.io)
I enjoy TADS and don’t want to see it fall into obscurity!
Thaumistry by Bob Bates is a great example of what can be done with modern TADS.
For me personally as a non-coder, I can grok Inform 7 much more easily than I can the pure code of TADS and Inform 6. As mentioned, I think the author-base swells when writers feel more confident with the more-readable “almost English” syntax instead of learning a completely new style of code-formatting.
With Twine, I believe it’s more about presentation than syntax and pure “grammar” of parser engines. Putting out a game that displays in the default format (bare Harlowe/Jonah/Sugarcane) is equivalent to leaving default parser descriptions “As good-looking as ever.” so more experienced authors do a lot to make it not look basic. There are Twine games made which don’t feel anything like Twine. There’s not a library per-se, but story formats which change the coding and utility of the language, even though they are still Twine - similar to Inform 7 extensions.
I disagree that there are “less VNs” made overall - I think the VN audience/authors are a niche we don’t hear from here much about since VN is it’s own special game type and there are more dedicated forums and social spaces for them. The audience doesn’t overlap into parser or choice games as much. Ren’py is still used, and the thing about VN is the gameplay and formatting is pretty much set and all the engine needs to do is do that well. Major game companies likely have their own proprietary engines to accomplish presentational sugar - Danganronpa, for example, is pure Visual Novel for dialogue but with a 2.5D map and point and click environment bolted in.
4 posts were split to a new topic: What is a Visual Novel?
A post was merged into an existing topic: What is a Visual Novel?
I’d be down for that, assuming I can come up with a concept for a reasonably-sized game by then. (And if not, there are always play testing and judging duties to attend to.)
Thank you Adrian,
I began work on the setup today. I will make an announcement as I pull the details together.
I have always felt that TADS is a ‘better’ language than Inform 6, but that’s not from personal experience, just a gut reaction to what I’ve read in various places. I use Inform 6 myself, but that’s only because of a long association with Infocom games, Infocom interpreters and a huge investment of time in the language.
I can’t get my head around Inform 7, but that’s probably because I’ve got more of a programmer background.
I’m certainly not looking for any new projects at the moment, but I would support a TADS jam. It might be an excuse to give TADS a try or at least play and rate the games.
I have never been able to get beyond the basics of Inform 7 and it is not for a lack of trying. I enjoy Inform 6. Recently I have been invigorated by PunyInform and have a couple of games in the works. One was meant for the Punyinform Jam but health issues got in the way. I hope to have Jamjar polished to be worthy of an entry into IF Comp.
I have been working with TADS 3 for some time. It is a VERY rich language and world model whether you use Adv3 of Adv3Lite.
I hope we can keep interest in TADS alive!
This question occurs to me every time I hear about TADS, so I may as well ask it now:
Is TADS still being looked after, if not actively developed? The last release seems to have been in 2013. That sounds like a long time ago to me (a layperson with no knowledge of how software development works) and things that worked back then might not work so well now, e.g. does the web player stuff still work as it should do, nearly a decade down the line? I’ve no doubt that Inform is still being attended to (recent anxieties expressed on this forum notwithstanding) but I’m not so sure about TADS. I’d be interested in playing around with it if it is still a going concern, but not so much if it is something that is slowly losing functionality through neglect.
Thanks to the amount of effort Microsoft puts into backwards compatibility, the official Windows tools (Workbench, compiler, and HTML TADS interpreter) are likely to continue working for the foreseeable future. Nikos Chantziaras is still maintaining QTads and FrobTADS. The distributed online play system built into IFDB seems to be inoperable for the time being, but gs.tads.io works (if you know how to call it), and you can still host your own if you’re so inclined. Gargoyle and Lectrote both support TADS games (albeit without the formatting and multimedia features of HTML TADS), and Parchment apparently has experimental support as well.