Tonight I happened to glance at page 21.1 of “Writing with Inform.” I found it utterly baffling. The very first sentence stopped me cold: “Most, if not quite all, Inform constructions are values - sometimes openly so, sometimes not.”
I found myself wondering, what does the word “construction” mean in that sentence? Is the description property of a room, for instance, a construction? I have no idea.
So I searched for the word “construction” in “Writing with Inform” using the search field. I was unable to find a definition of the term. It’s used a few times. Page 8.16, for instance, refers to “the ‘number of …’ construction.” But a scattered example or two hardly qualifies as an effective definition of something that is apparently a universal aspect of the language.
Page 21.1 asserts that constructions “are ways to make new kinds from existing ones.” This would probably be more informative if we knew what a construction is. We’re given a list of nine distinct constructions, but with no examples of any of the nine types, and no explanation of how any of them might be used.
Given that assertion, in what sense is the phrase “the number of edible things carried” (to quote 8.16) making a new kind from an existing one? How does a “K based rule producing L” make a new kind from an existing kind? And in what sense is a “K based rule producing L” a value, for Pete’s sake?
A little further down page 21.1, I stumbled onto this: “Nothing will make that a simple idea, but it’s unambiguous and can be puzzled out with practice.” Oh-kay. It’s not a simple idea. You’ll get no argument from me on that point. But am I out of line in thinking that the manual ought to sit down and patiently explain this non-simple idea to us, rather than just tossing us into the big tank with the piranha?
Every few months I start thinking, “I’d like to really master Inform 7. I know it’s sophisticated. I’d like to understand every detail of how it works.” And then I run into something like this, and I change my mind. I start thinking maybe I’ll play the piano instead.