Huh, that’s interesting - I wonder if I7 is getting conflated with the increase in choice-based games and the Twine Wars? Admittedly I wasn’t super active in the community back then, mostly lurking, but I didn’t notice anything too disruptive when I7 was introduced; the community really did change after Twine brought a bunch of new folks in, and there were some hard feelings and people taking their balls and going home.
I can see how the two things could get linked together in folks’ minds - they were only a couple years apart, and I7’s natural language approach definitely did start to bring in more non-coders, just as Twine did. But since the process of playing and reviewing an I7 game is almost identical to doing so to an I6 game, I’m a bit skeptical that that shift by itself was doing too too much to immediately drive some folks away.
(Again, disclaimer, this is just based on a vague sense of where the community was at from decade-old lurking, so I could be totally off base here! Zarf’s similar incomprehension is probably a more-informed data point in the same direction, though).
I decided to do some exploration from an outside viewpoint to find authors that became less prolific after Inform 7 came out.
Searching IFDB for inform games written from 1995 to 2006 and ranking them by most popular, we can see which authors had the most popular games during that time period.
Those authors include:
half sick of shadows
Of those, some were one hit wonders and other stopped writing well before Inform 7 came out. If we trim those from the list we get:
JJ Guest (technically wasn’t writing in Inform 7 but ported to later)
Interestingly, many of these authors released their ‘magnum opus’ after Inform 7 (though not necessarily written in Inform 7).
Jon Ingold released Make it Good (a very complex game) in 2009.
Victor Gijsbers released Kerkerkruip in 2011.
Adam Cadre released Endless, Nameless in 2012.
Emily Short released Counterfeit Monkey in 2012.
Andrew Plotkin released Hadean Lands in 2014.
JJ Guest released Alias the Magpie in 2018.
Nick Montfort and Jason Devlin have released games since 2006, but not as complex or polished as their earlier games.
Overall, at the high end of the popularity scale, it doesn’t look like any of the major authors quit around the time of the release of Inform 7.
It’s possible that reviewers and players or authors of lesser-known games dropped off, though.
How did the IF community change then? Was there a period of I7 snobbery or something? Or was there too much riffraff coming in without a coding background because I7 was more accessible to the unwashed masses? Inquisitive minds.
Okay, so I did not foresee putting myself in this awkward situation by opening my mouth earlier, but I’m now in a spot where I had information that I felt was a valuable example, but I also don’t know how specific I can get before infringing on the person I was talking to, in order to provide enough context so the information won’t cause damage from lack of context.
Had I been more mindful, I would have just deleted what I had written, and stayed in my own lane. However, my contribution has created responses, so I think I’m committed.
So when I post the following sentiments, I need you to understand that the conversation was very short, because I’m not good at being active in a conversation by asking questions, and now I need to very carefully pull out only the exchanges that are relevant to this topic, so that I do not throw this person under a bus, or breach any kind of confidentiality.
If that is valid and understood, then I can only offer this:
This person attempted to talk about what they feel are legitimate problems with I7, and feels that they were met with mostly “hostility and condescension”.
1a. This person did not provide me with specifics on what problems they had brought up, and why/how they were met with hostility and condescension.
This person feels like there were more negative comments, back when I7 was still being developed.
This person says that there were people who—back then—disliked I7 enough to give up on IF.
3a. This person did not provide specific names for examples.
This person feels like the nature of I7 contributed to the community becoming “monolithic” in how games are designed and implemented.
These factors eventually reached a point where they decided to leave IF.
I really don’t feel comfortable posting direct quotes from what were private messages, and I apologize to the person who sent me the messages. I seem to have really dug a grave for myself here. I’m doing my best.
Sorry! I certainly don’t expect you to break confidence, and I appreciate what you’ve said. But you are certainly never committed to answer any random internet questions that you don’t want to. Period.
Certainly a lot of transitional periods involve friction. And I don’t mean to speak for anyone nor discount the commentary of @inventor200, nor do I mean to apologize on behalf of anyone for historical behavior, but it’s very common how change affects many people in different ways and often causes fear of the unknown.
As most authors know, it’s quite a vulnerable period when testing a work, and sometimes in the crunch of work tempers can get short, so it’s very possible that well-intentioned feedback might have been discounted in the larger scheme of things, leading to hurt feelings and potentially a segment of the community feeling like they were “abandoned” or not being listened to. I remember the blowback when Apple changed iMovie…
The good thing is Inform 6 is still a viable platform for those who prefer it. The trick is to not take things personally. I was quite upset when AXMA 6 (which I actually paid for a license to use) was left in the dust for AXMA JS and the former wasn’t even optimized for OSX so I couldn’t even use the thing I’d spent so much time with learning all its quirks and inventive ways to work around and exploit them, but that’s made me go on a quest to adjust my own way of working and audition new systems that have better support and fit my workflow similarly. This was actually one of the reasons my productivity has taken a hit for a few years. But there’s no point in being angry about it. I got a lot of use out of the $21 I paid one time to use the platform for several years, but it does no good to argue that a developer keep supporting something they might have moved on from or aren’t enjoying working with anymore.
I don’t think it’s an unusual thing to move on anyway. They say “everyone has one good story in them” and many authors have several, but it’s not unheard of that people tell all the stories in a medium they can, and move on to other things. If Sam Barlow had confined himself to writing stuff in the vein of Aisle we wouldn’t have Her Story or Immortality or Silent Hill Origins. Jon Ingold moved from parser to developing a new choice system and created Inkle which actually has had mainstream success. We always complain that text IF isn’t a viable commercial venue, so people taking what they learn and moving on is actually a good thing when it happens, I’ll venture!
Also chiming in to say sorry for putting you in a somewhat uncomfortable position! But I appreciate this added context, and think you struck a good balance of respecting the person’s privacy.
Yeah, I think this is part of it too. The late aughts to early teens stretch is like 10-15 years after lots of folks jumped into the amateur IF scene on the back of Photopia, Anchorhead, etc. – and it’s not surprising many people, as they got out their white whale games and also changed life circumstances, would drift away (heck, this basically happened to me too, around the same time!)
There certainly was some movement in the Inform community when Inform 7 came out with, many people in the community transitioning to the “next big thing”, including the renowned authors.
Some people don’t like change, even fear it, so it might have affected perception and motivation of a authors. It’s also very reasonable to say that people just “move on” without a reason necessarily being rooted in the community or the system they used, it also can likely be in the way their lives and interests shifted.
When Inform 7 was announced, it created some mixed reactions but Inform 6 was not deprecated nor did the release of Inform 7 limit anyone in continuing using Inform 6. It’s still the underlying language of Inform 7 and the compiler is frequently updated, incorporating feedback from both the Inform 6 and the Inform 7 users. So I believe that both communities (I6/7) happily co-exist and which of the systems to use is just a personal preference.
On personal level: coming from a C / C++ / Objective-C / Smalltalk background, it was very easy for me to get into Inform 6, so I am still here rocking it (at least trying, people like @fredrik rock it better than me). Regarding Inform 7 my feelings are probably best described ambivalent. What I don’t like about I7 is the language itself, being a hacker I like to be in control of the underlying code and when I read I7 examples, I just know it’s not my thing. What I strongly like and appreciate about I7 is how it was able to open up IF development to those not coming from a coding background. It’s a language leaning more towards creativity, where the syntax itself as a foundation to your creativity is not a barrier. I see why Graham Nelson went this route. The natural language and rule based approach feels logical when you want to make IF development as accessible as possible. And I7 itself even inspired and spawned new IF languages, such as the amazing Dialog (which works better for me).
As historian, I don’t consider proper entering into an historical debate involving first-person witnessed events (beholder effect), but I point on a pair of technical matters:
First, the unhappy branding of Inform 7 (regretted by Lord Inform itself) and the very high degree of innovation (NL, but not only this) has led to IF development issues (we still debate source-level incompatibilies between versions of inform 7/10…)
second: NL needs a different approach to coding, and the passage is paradoxically more difficult for expert coders than beginner coders (cfr. the majority of I7/10 questions, the more often about simple, basic issues, not much about complex coding issues) and I think that there lies the phenomena noted by Brian.
There were some hostility against I7 in raif when it first came out, alongside with praises and cautionary approaches. Contrary opinions sounded louder in Usenet, just like in any other social media channel today. Some people got concerned about I6 going to be dead and no longer maintained. Nelson and others spent some time convincing people that I6 was a part if I7 and hence going to be maintained diligently alongside with I7 development. That’s all I can remember (hallucinate?).
On a completely unrelated note, what happened to Rybread Celsius?
I hope my original comment that split off this thread wasn’t too knee-jerk.
I was around for the I6-I7 transition, of course, but my memory isn’t any better than anyone else’s. I appreciate mathbrush digging up some contemporary commentary in this post.
Twine didn’t go high-profile until 2012. It started being visible in IFComp in 2011, but was a minority of entries until 2013. So that’s pretty solidly after I7 was accepted as common.
(To compare, most of the 2012 IFComp entries were I7; two or three were Twine; just one was I6.)
The period of I7’s introduction coincided with a bigger community transition – from Usenet to this forum. (Or the PhpBB predecessor of this forum.) The forum was launched in 2006 (right?) and it was about 2010 before the last diehards were convinced that RAIF was no longer a meaningful center of discussion.
(For the record, I was an early I7 adopter and a very late Usenet diehard. I know this because my moment of saying “Fine, I guess I have to post to the web forum now” was launching the HL kickstarter.)
There was definitely friction over the forum; there was friction over I7. I’m sure some of the discussion got hot enough that people walked away annoyed. Maybe even annoyed at me; I don’t remember. I apologize if so.
I had no idea that a simple throw-away comment would cause so much angst. I think it’s fair to say that things change. That’s just the way of the world.
In terms of software, it’s always changing. Old languages change. Some changes are good. Some changes are not so good. New languages come along. Old languages adopt some of the things in new languages. Some languages become more popular. Some languages become less popular. Some languages die off. That’s just the way of the world.
In terms of people, they have lives to lead. Their interests change. Some lose interest in IF and move onto other things. Others discover it. And, unfortunately, we all die sooner or later. That’s just the way of the world.
In terms of IF, there are numerous choices when it comes to authoring tools (or languages) and game styles (parser, choice, point ‘n’ click etc.) They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. None are better than the other.
As authors, we have a choice of authoring tools. As players, we have a choice of game styles. Isn’t that a good thing?
Oh, absolutely! Of course, greedy bastards that we are, we want it all, everything all at once, in one all-encompassing, most technologically advanced yet easiest to use, and most importantly free, package!
Multi-lingual capabilities, including those of the visually impaired, is a necessary component as well. And the resulting IF game must accommodate both beginners and seasoned players, of course.
The coding language must be natural, with none of these strange, cryptic characters. Ideally doable with standard text editor (read typewriter), if not with custom IDE.
All these functionalities must be available without the players having to download any package or install any player program. Just straight off the web browser, so to speak.
And it would be nice if graphics and other design elements are included. Maps and 2D graphics are a given. Dare I say it? 3D graphics and animation?
So, uh, any volunteer on this project? I can give you the design document if you want. I leave the technical implementations up to you, however.