While I completely dig where Laraquod is coming from, especially given my background in design and my own dabbles with ‘art’, the ‘Plug-and-Play Gamebook’ template derived from a much more pragmatic set of events.
When I first (re)discovered interactive fiction almost a year ago, I wanted to jump in and write something with Inform 7. But from everything I’d seen, writing an IF game is a big undertaking. So, instead, I thought I would get used to the language by creating a CYOA-style gamebook using one of the two extensions that appear on the Inform 7 site (http://inform7.com/extensions/adaptive-prose/#Non-standard_User_Interfaces). I figured if anything was going to be simple for a complete beginner to achieve in Inform 7, then this would be it.
As it turned out, both Mark Tilford’s “Simple CYOA” extension and Edward Griffiths’ “Adventure Book” extension baffled me no end. I eventually cobbled together a working version of Admiral Jota’s Grunk and Cheese, but it didn’t work the way I wanted it to.
For some time I left any notion behind of being able to code using Inform 7, then I picked up Aaron Reed’s book. The book is not designed for beginners (few would make it through chapter four without being moderately confused, and I confess to giving up on the book by the half-way mark), but reading about Tables inspired me to reconsider my gamebook idea.
As a community, we’ve been talking about how we can best teach people to play interactive fiction. We’ve also discussed the idea of being able to entice writers (who aren’t coders) to collaborate and bring their creative skills to the genre.
The gamebook template was an attempt to provide a tool that can do both. (And also my first attempt at writing anything substantial in Inform 7!)
Because the gamebooks use z code, they can be played using IF interpreters. This means they can be played across a huge number of platforms, including the iPhone, desktop, online, etc. And this should get people downloading and experimenting with IF terps some more, becoming familiar with the way they work. To this end, the restore, save and restart commands, and use of the keyboard, all work the same way as standard IF. The game examples I put out with the beta also use a lot of conventional IF commands as the links between pages. Hopefully, quite subliminally, players will get used to command conventions such as “enter barn” or “get wumplet”. The better the link between the IF command and what they’re being used to do in a gamebook, the more the IF convention becomes second nature to the gamebook player.
Then there’s the coding side of things. By providing an option to either collaborate with a coder (and directing said authors towards the intfiction.org site) or, better yet, installing and dabbling with Inform 7 themselves, people who may not have considered writing interactive fiction using authoring software are suddenly familiarizing themselves with the program and some of the features.
Add to all of that what I wrote in my blog post (http://www.inthecompanyofgrues.com/?p=228) and my belief that the gamebook form still has plenty of untapped potential, and hopefully that answers at least a few of your questions…
Oh, and I totally agree with Paul… I don’t think I’d call what I’m doing a “language”. Maybe a “system” or a “tool”?
So, Chris… How about you? What was your background/intent? What’s your ultimate goal? You mentioned that you’re new to the scene…