TADS 3.1.4 Release?

There’s always someone’s nerve who gets touched. Yes, I know all of that. And, of course, that’s why many projects make their source available and have core committers so that work of some sort can continue, even if it’s just bug-fixing.

Maintaining a presence is not that hard because it doesn’t imply any more than simply checking in once in awhile, asking people’s experiences, seeing what people like, don’t like, etc. Or simply letting it be known that you’re still working on the project, even if only peripherally. It can be more than that, of course, but it can also be just that. We’re not talking about managing a community here and I’m not even sure what your use of “maintaining” entails, to be honest.

Maybe Graham’s, like Mike’s, “interests and creative pursuits evolve and move along” but then presumably you would want to know that, right? And then see what the possible futures are the thing that, as you say, “settled into a specific niche to make a particular kind of game very well.”

No, understanding the little strawman you constructed is not hard. What’s a bit harder to understand is why you seem to be so irate about something that is an opinion and one that, at least arguably, has observational merit to it. I may be totally wrong, of course. I can only go on what is available for me to reason about.

So, just out of curiosity, how do you make the distinction and how do you know? By the same criteria one has judged TADS abandonware, others could make the same claim about Inform. Likewise, the argument for how Inform isn’t abandonware could likely be made for TADS. But it depends on who is doing the “abandoning.” If Mike has abandoned TADS but authors and players have not, is it abandonware? What about for Inform? By the way, I never said Inform 7 was abandonware. In your apparent angst, you seem to be reading more into what I said.

People are talking about three axes here: whether the IF development tool (TADS or I6 or I7 or whatever) is itself under active development; whether there’s an active author community around the tool; whether the tool is a good choice for writing a new game.

The third doesn’t really depend on the first two! All three of the named systems have reached a stable point. You can write a game.

Of course “stable” doesn’t mean “bug-free” (ha ha). For I7, in fact, I can point at major development paths which have been planned out and never followed up. But it doesn’t make sense to pick one of these tools based on how recently it’s been updated.

I guess my point here is that “revival” can mean a lot of different things. DavidG released an updated Inform 6/12 library less than a week ago (Inform Standard Library 6.12.2 released) – is that a revival, or are you talking about author community or a wave of games or what? You gotta say, or this discussion is going to be hopelessly gooshy.

I think the best outcome for TADS would be an in-browser interpreter that could play older games and didn’t require special setup. But that probably would be a lot of work. Parchment and Quixe are so complex!

I haven’t been following this discussion, so maybe I’ve missed something obvious, but with all due respect, Inform 7 has not been updated for two and a half years. In what sense is that not abandonware?

FWIW, I agree that adv3lite should have been rolled back into adv3 rather than being made a separate project … but that was how Eric wanted to do it, given that Mike had abandoned the Mercury parser. And Eric is not actively updating adv3lite, because nobody is using it. Is T3 dead? Yeah, pretty much. A brilliant system, but dead.

I could list several reasons why the entire field of interactive fiction has drifted into the doldrums and will never again emerge therefrom. The generation that was thrilled by Zork (among whom I number myself) is over the hill and dying off, for one thing – and computing technology itself has moved on rather noticeably.

I have very much enjoyed playing The Room and its sequels on my iPad. They’re brilliantly designed puzzle games that carry on the grand tradition of Zork. And while I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure the iOS SDK is well maintained. But you can’t really expect to create a game on that level by typing, “The Topiary is a room.”

Nor is there much reason why you should expect an IF system developer to provide cutting-edge tools. The systems available today are plenty good enough to write a nice text adventure. Heck, you can still write a brilliant text adventure in Inform 6 if you want to. Roll up those sleeves and get coding!

Or download the iOS SDK and buy some graphics software, that would be a good option too.

The thing about IF drifting into doldrums is that it creates opportunities for new people to be ‘the top author’. So a bunch of newcomers get excited, get an amount of attention that satisfies them, and then, over years, become dissatisfied and move on to bigger things, letting another group come in.

Intfiction had its most visitors ever last IFComp, more parser games are being produced now than have been in years, and If authors are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to write for game companies. Where are the doldrums?

Interesting, is this because Inform 6 is more likely to attract people with the programming skills to do such things and Inform 7 tends to bring in folks more interested in writing than programming? Or, does Inform 7 inherently offer more of a sandbox experience and Inform 6 is more open-ended?

Neither, because it simply isn’t true.

Sorry, having pronoun trouble. Does “it” refer to my questions or the claim that Inform 6 has more examples of experimental stuff that pushes the limits of the system’s intended purpose?

Heh, neither of those either. The claim that I7 somehow discourages or limits experimentation. As to the raw quantity of “experimental” works in I6 and I7 I wouldn’t guess, but I’m sure those who look will still find lots of weird and crazy I7 experiments.

And you, as well. There is no “angst” nor “irateness” involved in my feelings about this. I was reacting to your comment that the developer [of Inform] “seems to have no interest” in interacting with the community. I’m saying that is exactly the case; he develops Inform 7 and has historically updated it (sometimes with years between iterations) and other than the proxies he’s put in place to answer questions and the bugfix website, he doesn’t feel the need to interact with users beyond that. He owes nothing to the community and is under no obligation to release the code as open source.

re: How do I make the distinction and how do I know? Admittedly I know much less about TADS than I do about Inform, but please re-check the definition of “seems” and put it together with the modifier “increasingly” as it relates to the overall topic of this thread. “Abandonware” admittedly is probably a bit of a loaded term; how about “software that seems to be no longer developed nor supported”?

My personal feelings (not being a user of TADS): I don’t know how much further parser gaming can be pushed. Anyone skilled in Inform 7 can at this point probably make it do reasonably anything in the text-narrative gamespace. It’s like the point when first-person games hit photorealism at 90 FPS…the experience begins to depend less on the “hardware” and more on the artistic skill of the designer.

Inform 7 runs on top of Inform 6. In fact, you can drop into I6 code within an I7 source text if you want access to the bare metal and wires and do some special tricks without the safety rails of I7. Inform 7 just makes the “code” of Inform 6 a lot more understandable for people who tend to be more “writerly” than “code-y”

One difference between Inform 6 and Inform 7 is that Inform 6 is older, so there are works written in Inform 6 from before Inform 7 existed.

Welllll, there are parser things that I could see happening without having to develop full AI or something. You know that a little hobbyhorse of mine is the idea that the parser could be dynamic–objects could have generated descriptions and those descriptions could be understood by the parser, in a way that goes beyond Inform’s “Understand by a property” mechanism (though that does a lot of it). And I could imagine a system that improves on a keyword model somehow. But neither of these would be easy to develop from Inform. I can imagine a lot more happening with Inform disambiguation, which is in one of the trickier parts of the parser.

(As for new experiments, c’mon, I had that game about commanding multiple NPCs simultaneously, and it even had an incredibly irritating cosmetic bug that manifested every turn! Truly old school.)

Can you expand on this a bit more? I’m working on a parser for a new story engine and I’m certainly willing to cannibalize as many good ideas as I can. My goal is a parser that has syntax trees that the author can modify to suit their project.

No guarantees about if or when this will see the light of day. (I’m a very slow programmer.)

I’m interested too. My parser has seen the light of day, but I always like to improve.

(maybe open a new thread to keep this one on topic?)

Opening a new thread is a great idea–this has gone pretty far afield! Here’s the thread.

[EDITED to fix the link to the new thread.]

I see that I started this thread a little over two months ago, when I was first exploring parser-IF tools. This is my personal, short history of investigating these different tools:

I’ve been programming pretty regularly in traditional languages for some twenty-odd years now, which biases my preferences to what I already know and the tools I use.

I like TADS 3, its syntax and libraries, and was initially my first choice. I ended up not using it–not so much because Mike Roberts has moved away from the scene, but because improvements and bug fixes that he made since 3.1.3 are stashed away in his private tree somewhere, and unavailable to the public at large. The TADS 3 C++ codebase is large-ish, and the build process a bit involved on Windows, but these could certainly be learned and overcome with time and effort: I felt frustrated, though, that the first bug-fixes I’d be working on are ones that he already fixed but didn’t release.

Then I tried Inform 7, because it’s the dominant tool, by reading the “Writing with Inform” manual in its entirety and then starting through the Recipe Book examples. Given my traditional programming background, the faux-natural-language syntax of I7 was very offputting, and prevented me from using modern tooling I’m accustomed to (more on that below). In the way that parser-IF is sometimes criticized for providing a false illusion of linguistic freedom to the player, so I7 seems to provide an illusion of natural-language freedom to the author, while nevertheless actually requiring its own idiosyncratic phrasings and word-orderings. And the compiler is closed-source, so one cannot answer questions by delving into the “ultimate authority” (the compiler code itself).

Then, finally, backwards to I6. From the tally of the games made with it, clearly it’s a capable-enough system for the types of parser games–both traditional and experimental–that historically defined the genre. The latest versions of both the compiler and library are available (and actively maintained) on GitHub, and within a month I could understand their workings well enough both to answer my own questions like “How do you represent the single-quote character in I6 source?” (answer: [size=150]’’’[/size], not [size=150]’’’[/size] as in C/Java), and to submit small patches to the maintainers (ex. to raise the number of verbs usable in Glulx from 256 to 65536, something already available in I7).

Tooling: the conventional syntax of I6 allows one to configure editors and IDEs to navigate the source very conveniently. I can have my IDE readily show me all the source locations where “UndergroundLabRoom” is referenced, or all the objects that override the “Take” action; I can view the function call-tree for parser routines, to see how they really work, even if undocumented in the manual; etc.

So it seems good that I7 and I6 can co-exist, for the different sorts of folk who come into the scene, each looking for a different philosophy of IF system.



For what’s it’s worth, there will be a meetup in June where Graham Nelson will speak about the advancement of Inform, so I believe we can safely say that Inform is not dead.

It doesn’t address anything about TADS, but at least it should clarify the situation a bit.

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I’m happy to be wrong about G. Nelson and to know he is still actively involved! Daily social interaction can be a huge drain on time (I’m experiencing this firsthand) and that’s what I had in mind by “active in the community”.

Thanks for the news. I don’t keep up with live events very much at all.

Actually, as I was writing my response, I thought “AI”…which would be absolutely awesome. I think that’s what Emily Short was attempting with Versu I might venture (for IF) that AI is a thing logistically that would be easier and more interesting simulated cleverly in the context of a story than as a full-blown operating game system. [rant-But oho!]Don’t think I haven’t tried it - I had a prototype where my NPCs had “to do” boxes as part of their bodies and there were objects they would carry which would affect their behavior and they could pass them between each other.[/rant]

I have played with description generation and it’s fun and works well. I tend to just write a whole lot of synonyms so the parser recognizes an object even by words the player might not yet understand it by.



This has been an interesting discussion, more for what it shows about how people conflate fact and opinion and how they engage on the same. My own discipline, testing and quality assurance, is (for better and worse) filled with notoriously fractious personalities, often bordering on manic defensiveness. And that’s on both sides of whatever issue they have decided to plant their respective flags on. They then engage in battles over hills that no one is really trying to take anyway.

This is certainly something I’ve observed in the interactive fiction community going back well over two decades now. And I don’t say that to cast aspersions or somehow hold myself above it. I’ve certainly had pointed opinions on how various things have developed. (Adv3Lite in TADS being one of those, as some may recall.)


The storm that started all this may be this notion that Graham and Mike are “uninvolved” in their respective systems. If I’m reading any sort of consensus correctly, people seem to agree on that with Mike and TADS, disagree on that with Inform and Graham. I’ll take that state of affairs as a given. I think what some are worrying about is that TADS atrophied when its creator (at least seemingly) stopped having a visible say in anything; when decisions were delegated down to others, and those decisions may have lacked a coherent design strategy and thus fragmentation of (and quality issues with) the ecosystem became more possible. People may be worrying about that same state of affairs eventually happening with Inform 7.


Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say. But I’m also not sure how much it matters because all of this, by which I mean, text-based interactive fiction, is a hobbyist endeavor. It’s a hill no one is really trying to take in any substantive way. I say that not to denigrate it but just to put it in perspective.

So all this verbal fighting (I think I saw “angst” mentioned once or twice) is probably unnecessary. Given that this is a hobbyist sort of thing, if you enjoy it, do it. If you don’t, don’t do it. If the system you prefer happens to be “dead” or “abandoned” or whatever other semantic nitpick people want to froth at the mouth over, pick another one. And if none of what’s left appeals to you, then realize you are probably pursuing the wrong hobby. But also realize even “dead” systems can have a certain life to them for a long time, as long as they basically work.

Having different opinions is a good thing. Having healthy (rather than reactionary) debate about those opinions is an even better thing.


Taking one of Jesse’s points:

Indeed! This is what I’m experimenting with now, essentially going back to I6 for a lot of reasons. Somewhere in the above fracas was mentioned the notion of more experimentation with Inform 6 than Inform 7. While I think the same level of experimentation is possible with both, having been with the IF community for multiple decades now, I do agree that Inform 6 has tended to see more diverse experimentation. But I also think a large part of that is the “different philosophy” Jesse mentions and how that philosophy manifests in the interface of both systems. By “interface”, I don’t just mean an “IDE” here, but rather the interface of the code itself. The intersection of human readable and machine expressive does matter when it comes to how people experiment.


(Maybe?) along the subject of this thread, the reason I experimented with I6, then I7, then back to I6 (and ultimately not TADS) is simply that the ecosystem is wider for the Ix variety. For me, that’s currently the case whether Graham is “involved” or not.

Now, whether the converse is true for TADS is not something I can say, but I do think that question is interesting and I also do think that TADS can serve as a cautionary aspect, at least in some respects, for Inform. That opinion can be held and maintained without denigrating Inform, TADS, or their creators.