is there a need for a GUI for TADS/Inform ?

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Graham Keellings

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May 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/17/96
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Hi,
I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the
streets. Does anyone see any point in a Windows based graphical
front-end to TADS/Inform ? I could foresee such a thing as a
house-keeper. Perhaps constuction of the map of game world much the same way as
flowcharting programs look; just click, or drag'n'drop to add a new
room, or passage, create, define & place a new object, examine the
object database, auto-maintainence of the map & links between
different rooms, selection of rooms/objects through drop-down list
boxes, etc.
I'm convinced that text based adventures will always remain superior
to the likes of Myst (just as I prefer books to cinema), so I don't
suggest developing graphical adventures; but that doesn't mean we can't use
new-fangled tools to develop text adventures.
I'm sure this has been proposed before & I'd be the first to admit
that such a front-end wouldn't be portable, but I just wondered what you
thought. Are there any tedious house-keeping chores that could be
simplified/speeded up by a bells'n'whistles GUI ?
post here for discussion, or drop me an e-mail

Graham

Gareth Rees

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May 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/17/96
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Graham Keellings <gra...@cube.net> wrote:
> I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the
> streets.

Adding fairly portable version 6 support to a Z-machine interpreter
would be very interesting.

When it comes to writing a front end to TADS/Inform, it might be better
to write it as an extension to an existing editor; thus you get the
benefit of existing editing facilities to build on. For example, you
could add support for templates, object/class browsing, auto-mapping etc
to the Inform mode for GNU Emacs.

--
Gareth Rees

M. Sean Molley

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May 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/17/96
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In article <Ni>, Graham Keellings <gra...@cube.net> wrote:
>Hi,

> I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the
>streets.

Aren't we all? :) I suggest starting to write your own IF game. This
should keep you off the streets for *years*.

>Does anyone see any point in a Windows based graphical
>front-end to TADS/Inform ?

I hope *someone* does, since mine is going into beta-test in the very
near future. It's actually an MS-DOS application, but the user interface
is very similar to MS Windows. Although I just got Borland C++ 5.0
today, which claims to be able to do simultaneous development for DOS,
Windows 3.1, and Windows 95 targets, so perhaps a native Windows version
wouldn't be that hard to do (but I have never done any native Windows
programming, so I don't know about that... my "old" compiler is Turbo C++
3.0, which was the last DOS-based IDE...)

I hate to steal your thunder, but I have been working on this project for
some time now and have been setting up for a release date near the end of
this summer. I have never posted anything about it before (although a
few people on this newsgroup do know of its existence) because at the
moment it's in a "not ready for prime time" form and I do not want to
create any expectations for the product.

>I could foresee such a thing as a house-keeper.

Actually, TA DA! (Text Adventure Design Assistant) is intended more along
the lines of an automatic code generator rather than a true "organizer"
for IF programmers.

>Perhaps constuction of the map of game world much the same way as
>flowcharting programs look; just click, or drag'n'drop to add a new
>room, or passage, create, define & place a new object, examine the
>object database, auto-maintainence of the map & links between
>different rooms, selection of rooms/objects through drop-down list
>boxes, etc.

This is somewhat similar to the user interface for TA DA!. Basically,
you (the user) begin with a "blank slate" which represents the game map.
Via drag-and-drop and other mousey things you build your game map,
providing such things as room descriptions and exit code through
templates. You can define objects, scenery, and so forth, and specify
their locations on the map. There are a number of "hooks" where you can
specify "if the player does XXX, do YYY" which cover only the most common
programmer's constructs. Again, this is accomplished largely through
check-boxes, templates, and similar things. It is very difficult to
implement a "programming-free" way of doing anything complex, however! :)

There is a facility for adding NPC's, as well, although only on a very
limited basis. Basically, you can specify their description, etc, as
well as their "life" routine (what they do when they are in the same room
as the player and the player does not specifically interact with them).
You can specify lists of question-and-response, of the form "ASK NPC
ABOUT XXX", "TELL NPC ABOUT XXX", "SHOW XXX TO NPC", and so forth. You
cannot (at the moment) do anything more complicated with the characters,
however.

Once you have "designed" the framework for your game -- for that's all
the program can really do, help you set up a framework -- then TA DA!
generates code, either for Inform (5.5, but I will look at 6.0 and see
how difficult it will be to change) or TADS (2.X). This code is "clean"
and will compile using either Inform or TADS, but I would not go so far
as to say that a user could implement a complete, working, non-trivial
game using TA DA!. That's my goal, of course, and in fact I'm trying to
scrounge a thesis out of the automated code generation/multitargeting
aspects of the system.

> I'm convinced that text based adventures will always remain superior
>to the likes of Myst (just as I prefer books to cinema), so I don't
>suggest developing graphical adventures; but that doesn't mean we can't use
>new-fangled tools to develop text adventures.

My thoughts exactly! And, even though I am close to releasing a product
which is similar in many ways to what you have proposed, I would strongly
encourage you to go ahead and give it a shot if you have the
inclination, for several reasons:
1. TA DA! could die or become vaporware in the next few months.
2. You might do it better than I have done it, or come up with a better
interface, or a more clever system of representing a "game in progress."
3. My goal for TA DA! is really to get it to the point where almost
anything that the user envisions can be implemented without the user
having to write any TADS or Inform code. This means that it has to be a
lot more complex than a tool which was designed to assist an experienced
programmer in managing his or her IF project without taking the
programming burden off of the user's shoulders. Given the presence of
both systems, I think the experienced programmer would choose the latter
system rather than TA DA!, which is geared towards the non-programmer (or
at least towards the lazy programmer, such as myself!). :)

> I'm sure this has been proposed before & I'd be the first to admit
>that such a front-end wouldn't be portable, but I just wondered what you
>thought. Are there any tedious house-keeping chores that could be
>simplified/speeded up by a bells'n'whistles GUI ?

Map management is nice, to be sure. TA DA! actually arose out of some
discussions between Whizzard and myself about development tools (though I
still haven't been brave enough to let him play with the alpha version!),
but it has taken on a sort of a different tack as I have gotten more
interested in automated code generation and the compilers themselves. The
basic idea behind the project is that at present, one must be a
programmer as well as a writer in order to create interactive fiction.
The intersection of the two groups contains some very good people, as we
have seen from the games that have been released in the last few years.
However, I believe that a tool which at least simplifies the process
could be useful to both experienced programmers (why write all that
tedious room code yourself?) and people who don't know how to program in
C/C++ (nearly a prerequisite for TADS or Inform) and don't want to learn.

Actually, I'm considering doing two versions -- one would be for the
person who expects to do a substantial amount of the programming and only
wants a framework pre-generated for her, while the other would be for the
person who would rather develop his game entirely with the assistance of
the tool. Naturally, the former version could play a bit more "fast and
loose" than could the latter, but it is the second version that is my goal.

> post here for discussion, or drop me an e-mail

As I've mentioned, TA DA! is still several months away from even its most
primitive release. This posting should not be considered a formal
announcement or anything like that. I merely wanted to mention that I
was working on the project, and would be glad to discuss design issues
with you, either in this newsgroup or via E-mail. Good luck!

> Graham
>
>

Sean
-----
M. Sean Molley, Computer Science Department, Western Kentucky University
mol...@pulsar.cs.wku.edu


Nulldogma

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May 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/17/96
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We were just talking about this a couple of months back. (Is r.a.i-f still
being archived at GMD?) To sum up what I said then: I would love to have
something that simplified making stock rooms and objects, passages between
them, etc., in a manner similar to how PageMill simplifies HTML coding.

Of course, if you don't port it to the Mac I won't be able to use it, but
I still think it's a worthwhile project.

Neil

bonni mierzejewska

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May 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/18/96
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On 17 May 1996 19:43:35 GMT, gra...@cube.net (Graham Keellings) wrote:

>Hi,
> I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the

>streets. Does anyone see any point in a Windows based graphical
>front-end to TADS/Inform ? I could foresee such a thing as a
>house-keeper.

How about a DOS-based front-end? With Windows, you're going to get into
the Win3.1/Win95 compatibility problems.

bonni
coming soon - 1996 IF Competition entry
__ __
IC | XC | bonni mierzejewska "The Lone Quilter"
---+--- | u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu
NI | KA | Kelly's Creek Homestead, Maidsville, WV

Neil K. Guy

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May 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/20/96
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Graham Keellings (gra...@cube.net) wrote:

: I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the


: streets. Does anyone see any point in a Windows based graphical

: front-end to TADS/Inform ? [...]

Well I suspect a lot of people would be pleased to see a Windows
interpreter for TADS that lets you have a resizeable window and
changeable fonts, etc., like the Mac version. You'd need to contact
Michael J. Roberts and sign an NDA for source though.

- Neil K. Guy

--
Neil K. Guy * ne...@sfu.ca * n...@vcn.bc.ca
49N 16' 123W 7' * Vancouver, BC, Canada

mon...@marshall.edu

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May 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/21/96
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>> I'm looking for a major new programming project to keep me off the
>>streets. Does anyone see any point in a Windows based graphical

>>front-end to TADS/Inform ? I could foresee such a thing as a
>>house-keeper.
>
> How about a DOS-based front-end? With Windows, you're going to get into
> the Win3.1/Win95 compatibility problems.

TADS is already dos based. I want a win-tadsr.exe!!

Have fun
Alan

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