What's your IF White Whale?

Some of you have that one idea, that one project, that dominates your thoughts and actions, perhaps even an obsession, even though some set of obstacles, perceived or real, leaves its realization with little chance of success. It’s something that you keep circling back to, even though you are unsure or are unwilling to proceed. Perhaps it’s something recent, or maybe it’s something you’ve entertained on and off for decades. Maybe it’s a WIP, or perhaps it’s just a persistent notion. I suspect that most of you have at least one of these irritating mental nuggets, because I find myself with more than one.

Personally, I have this Fallout crossover I can’t let go of. I’ll give you the tactile feel and experience first. Those of you familiar with the animation of sitting down to a terminal in modern Fallout games, can see the nugget of the idea there. In the games, when you choose to log on to a computer terminal from a standing position, the screen’s first person POV pivots to a sitting position, centering the terminal screen in your vision. With a slight tweek, the keyboard could be left in view at the bottom of the screen, with the PC’s hands settling onto the keys. As the player types parser command onto the screen, the PC’s fingers move to select the same keys, like the learning software for typing for children, along with a nice analog sounding chunk-chunk of the keys striking. Someone stands at your shoulder and occasional back and forth comments can be heard between the PC and their colleague. The two are in an underground vault and the overhead flicker of fluorescent lights can be seen casting occasional glare and reflections on the screen. The PC and their colleague are never seen, only heard.

Setting and plot. It’s Halloween in 2077, barely a week after the bombs fell. A heated argument can be heard between the two unseen characters regarding the unnamed Vault’s Air Purification Chip. The chip had failed less than a week after sealing the doors, a lemon, but none of the spare chips seemed to have arrived in time (Instead, they received an unrequested pallet filled with several dozen metal suitcases stamped GECK.) The two briefly consider sending a sacrificial resident outside to locate a replacement chip, but quickly rule it out as the radiation levels immediately outside the vault door would be lethal in mere minutes due to being next to the Columbia Generating Station. Given the large volume of the Vault, there is plenty of air, but even so, the hundreds of residents mean even this supply will be depleted in days, not weeks.

The inciting action. Finally, one hesitantly suggests Feste, the janitorial Mr. Handy Robot supplied to the vault. The other groans in response. “Well, if he doesn’t make it back, at least we’ll die in peace.” the first responds. Cut to Feste being unceremoniously shoved out of the airlock (complaining the entire way) with an improvised antenna attached to him.

The game mechanics. The PC can give commands or ask questions of Feste via the terminal, and Feste is ostensibly the finicky, overwrought, and insufferable Parser, responding to each prompt as a character, much as Grunk did in Lost Pig. The bandwidth of the Feste’s connection is narrow, so only text and individual still images can be sent at the PC’s request, each image taking a few parser turns to load. This leans the bulk of the interaction into text, while allowing some impressive scenery and item shots for color and player interest. Together, you help Feste navigate the fresh nuclear hellscape, attempting to locate an Air Purification Chip to save the Vault and its residents. Given Feste’s nature, he’s prone to flatly refuse certain PC commands (helping to narrow some potential overbranching) and may offer a compomise in response (perhaps working as an inbuilt hint system). Adding color to the world, the PC and their colleague can be heard occasionally commenting depending on the circumstances and the player’s choices. Also, the parser being a robot plays into a little parser inflexibility in understanding commands and word choice, again, similar to the in-built justification of Grunk as a narrator. After several failed commands, the colleague might say something like, “He doesn’t understand, try something more direct like [insert hint here].” which can work as a more direct second line of hinting if the player needs it.

The problem. I suspect Vorple can’t handle all of this, especially the real-time typing animations. I could make a simpler version, but I’m so married to the vision in my head, that I can’t let it go. I feel like doing it right might really help introduce many of the large existing Fallout fan base to a text parser in an amusing and fairly painless way. The potential benefits mean I shouldn’t compromise, but I don’t know how to move forward either, so this remains my IF White Whale.

With all of that said, I’d love to hear about the other White Whales that round out the intfiction pod. Anyone willing to share?

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I keep coming back to making the ‘ideal’ combat system and implementing it within my fantasy IF game. The issue is that it is unnecessary in its current form and I feel like I keep wasting time going back to it. I remember being entranced by the unique combat messaging in Zork I fighting the troll and the thief when I was young, but I keep wanting to make a super-complicated system.

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I have a game that … well, it’s my sort of thing, but it’s a divergence in its own way. I don’t want to spoil things, and I feel bad about leaving people hanging, but it’s enough of a departure that once I write it, I might be done with writing for good. I thought it up back during '17 IFComp, and it was sort of theoretical, and it seemed like only so much could be done with it. It could be potentially very funny or unfunny and maybe a bit offensive.

This is all very cryptic but I hope it makes sense one day!

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Mine is definitely the sequel to HHGTTG (actually mainly the threequel) which I’ve been working on, based off Stu Galley and Adam Sommerfield’s code.

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It might be a bit off-topic to enter technical details in this thread but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be possible. While typing, you’re in “JavaScript space”, not “Inform space”, so you can do whatever JS can do. Detecting key strokes and animating hands on a keyboard would be very doable for a JS developer. All the VFX (old CRT effect, flickering lights) can also be done in CSS/JS. You could even do 3D.

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Most of my games are like this. With a few exceptions, they’ve all gone through a stage where I don’t seem to be making any headway with them. I almost gave up on Alias ‘The Magpie’ and Excalibur. Currently I’ve got two that are just stuck. One is an Inform 7 game I started in 2010. All of puzzles are done but there are problems with gating and structure. The other is a choice-based game written in Ink, which has such a strong-minded PC that it’s hard to come up with meaningful choices for her; I know exactly what she’d do or say at any given time. I think I have a solution for that one which involves approaching the game in a completely different way.

I overthink everything. I’ve never been one of those people who can just sit in front of a keyboard and rattle out 2000 words a day. Words and ideas need to crept up upon stealthily and taken by surprise. Rush at them and they fly away out of reach. They scare easily. Writing IF is fun, but it’s really difficult, and (for me at least) it doesn’t get easier with experience because I keep setting the bar higher for myself. Always just out of reach. I miss the days when I had lower expectations of myself, and I don’t think my work is necessarily better as a result. So with the exception of one or two that just dropped fully-formed into my lap (To Hell in a Hamper, Renegade Brainwave) they’ve all been the White Whale at one point or another, but like foolish Ahab I somehow can’t let any of them go.

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JJ just wrote pretty much what I was going to say. The last ten years are littered with the still partially living bodies of white whales that I keep dredging up every now and again.

It’s why I so often miss deadlines for comps. I hold onto developments for way too long even when its completely apparent that my original vision just isn’t going to work. I had one parser game that I worked on, on and off, for at least 3 years. It wasn’t till I sat back and realised that, even though there was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, it was just…well…boring. My entire concept relied on the player doing dull things. And there was no fixing it. As an author I was bored writing it!

There’s a number of reasons a project can turn into a white whale - technical struggles, narrative structure issues, gameplay problems - all of which will probably make their way through to the player in some way. It’s very hard giving up tho’.

My current WIP - a choice game 2 years in development, now. Been planning it for 5 years. Aiming to have it finished for the next IFcomp. On this one, I will not give up. White whale though it is.

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Isn’t that a good thing?

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I don’t really see it that way, because I’d like to be more prolific. I’ve released 7 games and have three more in the works but I’m 52 and I’ve been doing this for twenty years. I can’t afford to spend another ten years writing one game! (Obviously, there was a lot of overlap between projects!) Also, I’m not sure that the improvements I’m making, things like deeper implementation and an emphasis on simulation, will be noticed or appreciated by the end user. I worry that I’m losing spontaneity. When my current WIPs are finished, I’d like to focus on shorter works and will probably move away from parser towards choice.

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asking about white whales from one whose has many WIP, some since, well, early 90s…

I have disclosed some WIP and indeed one has gone by leaps and bounds and another has gained from the release of Inform 10.

Looking into the obvious places in the if/wrk tree, (that is, …/inf52, …/inf55, …/magx, …/adl /advsys for white whales… well, there’s inf52/oldbase and advsys/coastfort and inf55/martwr all, 1990s vintage and very far from completion (oldbase and coastfort being basically "treasure hunts"m inf55/martwr being perhaps more interesting, but with a somewhat screwed implementation…

But in ADL there was a white whale whose is actually captured, last year, that is, how to get rid of the rather cumbersome & hard to mantain $hit/$miss system of map connection:

INCLUDE "wstandard.adl"; {PG's slight modified stdlib}

{
 Simplified and DEFINITIVELY much more easy to code map system, taken from 
 Ross CunnifF's MPU.
 With hindsight, he ought to have implemented this in the standard library,
 overriding that awkward and cumbersome $hit/$miss system.

Usage: dir [verb] [location] 0 for a hit,
       dir [verb] 0 [custom miss] for a custom miss,
       ELSE stock cg (cantgo) for a miss.
PGdE, 15 Novembre 2021, 34 years after the release of ADL 3.2
}

VAR
  GO;

dir =
    (IF ($eq ($verb) %1) THEN
	(IF %2 THEN
	    ($move .ME %2)
	    ($setg GO TRUE)
	)
	(IF %3 THEN
	    (($arg 3))
	)
	ELSE ($say "fool, not this dir !!!\n")
    )
;

{cg = ($say "fool, not this dir !!!\n");}

NOUN bed,kitch;
NOUN ME(bed);
ME(LIGHT)= TRUE; {the "Radiant Adventurer" trick}

START =
	($say "welcome to the ADL standard skeleton...\n\n")
	($setg Verbose TRUE) {ADL, we're in the XXIth Century !!}
	($prompt Prompter)
	($sdem Looker)
	($actor ME 0 1 0)
	($setv n s e w ne se nw sw u d)
{ ($setv north south east west ne se nw sw up down) }
	;

bed(LDESC) =
    ($say "You awake in your bedroom.  All is clean as should be")
    ($say "because is a test, There is another room to the south.\n")
;
bed(SDESC) = ($say "Bed room\n");

bed(ACTION) =
    (dir s kitch 0)
;

kitch(LDESC) =
    ($say "You are in your kitchen.")
    ($say "There bed room to the north.\n")
;

kitch(SDESC) = ($say "Kitchen\n");

kitch(ACTION) =
    (dir n bed 0)
;

(not that I have WIP in ADL, but having at last found an alternative, much easier to mantain, room connection system after many years indeed IS an Acab-grade satisfaction…)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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Maybe focus on making it modular, perhaps as an extension that you might reuse and tweak in other projects? That way, you’re creating a tool you might reuse over and over, as opposed to an energy and time intensive one-off. If it works especially well, and the idea pleases you, you could even share the extension once you beat the bugs out of it, and you might get to see your system adopted in other folks’ games over the next several years. Then again, maybe not applicable to your situation; I guess that’s up to you to decide.

Well, damn. Would you need to go into hiding to avoid the roving pitchfork and torch bearing mobs of incensed IF enthusiasts or would this be a self-imposed banishment to atone for perceived sins? Intense. Interest piqued!

I’ve seen some renewed murmuring about direct sequels to Infocom titles and would definitely be interested in a continuation of the HHGTTG story. Perhaps if enough buzz is created regarding Infocom properties Microsoft might brush the dust off the old IPs… or send a cease and desist letter, lol.

Well, damn… I’m going to have to take Javascript seriously once and for all. I find the amount of mental effort needed to wrap my mind around programming languages several orders higher than what is required for most other tasks, including physics, chemistry, mathematics and writing. There’s something intuitive that doesn’t click for me, and learning any new programming language is a painful slog of manuals and innumerable programming autopsies and endless trial and error. I have quite a few programmer friends, and I honestly feel their brains literally work down different cognitive paths than mine.

Regardless, your reassurance that Vorple can handle this if the implementer has the requisite Javascript skills is all I need to take a deep breath and dive back in after my White Whale. Thank you.

Do we still have any Speed IF contests running around the IF community? Seems like the time pressure along with the understanding and expectation of lowered standards might help you churn out some interesting nuggets and might help you out of the rut you feel you’re in. Regardless, I wish you luck.

Knowing when to call it quits is a useful skill and it can take some personal courage to look at something you have labored over and admit to yourself it isn’t salvageable. I have some cadavers as well. I keep them around, because one never knows when you can swap out a useful organ or limb for another project and Frankenstein it together. Waste not, want not, I suppose. Storage is cheap.

That moment when something clicks and several road blocks in a few different projects suddenly lift is quite the endorphin rush. Makes you (briefly) feel like the smartest person in the world.

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I have one I’ve been futzing with for over a year, and I cannot figure out how it ends. I just can’t. Either I should drop it or do a really lame ending… “and it was all a dream!”

*&#%$. I can’t let go of the idea, and endings usually don’t trouble me so, but this one is just evil.

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Maybe you could just leave it on a really over-the-top absurd cliffhanger and plan for a future sequel. Makes it a future Amanda problem. ¯\ (°_o) /¯

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I submitted this to Emily Short’s “Bring Out Your Dead” jam on itch. Essentially a showcase for likely-never-to-be-completed games:

Unfortunately it doesn’t work. It required being able to visit a link to toggle a quality and I think they shut that part of the site off. I can’t even get into the editor because that is shut down also now that I recall.

This document explains the entire thing.

Stepchild - BOYD.pdf (143.6 KB)

I started in I7, changed to Storynexus, then had planned to continue in ChoiceScript but I sincerely doubt the game is viable anymore. It does contain some writing that still makes me laugh, especially when I made up terminology for how jousting works.

Lunebyn reasons why

The “Lunebyn” section of Cursèd Pickle of Shireton was originally a location with concepts planned as part of Stepchild that I lifted and re-used. You’ll notice that the protagonist from the beginning can start obtaining “phobias” and “manias” due to trauma that affect gameplay and could be traded and used as “skills” and that was the major gimmick - if you have “chlorophobia”, you cannot interact with green things. If you have “choreomania” you are compelled to dance randomly which can get you arrested if people see you since dancing is outlawed. The gamification of mental health is probably not a great base to build a game upon in today’s environment and my work on this goes all the way back to the early 2000s before I understood that fully.

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This is the second time in a week I’m harping on a typo (bad Mike!), but man, the shift from BOYD to BYOD radically changes my understanding of what this jam was like.

On topic, I think the two things I’m (sorta) working on right now are both white-whale-ish, since I’ve had the ideas for a couple years now and they’re tough nuts for different reasons, even if I wasn’t struggling with dramatically reduced amounts of focused time for IF writing after my son was born. One is an adaptation of a book, which is already tricky ground to be working in, and the specific genre is way harder to translate into gameplay than the more standard but already-tough mystery and SF/F adventure stuff. The other one started out as a short, punchy game that I then realized would work better as a triptych of similarly-scoped sequences, and then realized would need a framing bit with about the same heft as the now-tripled other half.

My longest-standing white whale, though, is an idea I’ve been carrying around for literally 20 years, when I first started futzing with Inform 6, which is to do a complex casino heist in a low-fantasy world (Thief was the main setting inspiration); the concept was there would be a planning phase and an implementation phase, with multiple playable members of the crew you could jump between at any time, with a bunch of NPC adversaries with their own schedules and then ability to respond dynamically as you tried to put your plan into action. Though now that I think about it, my I7 skills are getting to the point where I might able to start digging into this – might need to add this to the queue too…

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Oh my god, I can’t believe that’s been wrong since 2016. Fixed. :expressionless:
Sorta. I’m not fixing the filenames. I’m going with it adds to the charm.

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Sadly, your magic link to obtain access did not appear to function. Possibly user error on my part if it isn’t mobile friendly.

On a separate note, implementing cursing in the Olde Tongue into the parser is truly inspired and would have had me honestly laughing out loud had I encountered it in the wild, so to speak.

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Nuuuu. That’s so sad.

I’m trying to click around and I can get the game to run…slowly…(Safari on Mac). I’m trying to see if I can even open the editor to remove the requirement for the magic link…Storynexus may be just too old to work properly in modern browsers since it exists but is no longer maintained. The editor is not even accessible :slightly_frowning_face: I think they did kill the editor now that I recall because they didn’t want people to keep making stuff.

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Then you’re not going to like this. Learning JS can be complicated (rapid langage evolution, bazillion of tools, lots of frameworks (you don’t need one here) that fill the tutorial space…).
You’ll also need to have an understanding of the rest of what happens in a browser (HTML, DOM, CSS, maybe SVG or WebGL depending on the visual effects required).
I recommend going in there accompanied, to put you on the “simple track” (telling you what you need and don’t need).

That was the idea :slight_smile:
Ping me when you start working on it, I can probably help.

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For a long time Scroll Thief was my white whale. The IntroComp deadline was the only reason I ever released anything, and I’ve got about twice as much code sitting around unreleased than was put into those first couple chapters. Then I took my hiatus and moved on to other things.

Now I’m trying to make more, smaller games and push myself to actually get things published instead of letting them languish forever. I still have a half-finished Dialog port of Colossal Cave (the original with moving dwarves, not the Inform version) that I want to finish…

That sounds amazing.

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