Anyone trying to market IF commercially?

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trawsars

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Jan 2, 2002, 5:18:50 AM1/2/02
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Been going through Google's archives on the subject. Cascade Mountain
Publishing is a notable failure. In one of his last posts, Michael
Berlyn said he'd keep trying, but that was almost 2 years ago - anyone
know what he's up to?

So what does everyone think would be necessary for a large-scale
commercial IF venture to succeed? There've been some good ideas tossed
around, but no-one's really done anything. Why not? The community has
had so much time to grow and mature this far, and you guys are so
passionate about it - why hasn't anyone else made a try at it? What's
needed, what's missing?

kodrik

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Jan 2, 2002, 8:27:33 AM1/2/02
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> So what does everyone think would be necessary for a large-scale
> commercial IF venture to succeed? There've been some good ideas tossed
> around, but no-one's really done anything. Why not? The community has
> had so much time to grow and mature this far, and you guys are so
> passionate about it - why hasn't anyone else made a try at it? What's
> needed, what's missing?

Do you want to make a game for sell or do you have ideas for selling
games?
I've had the same questions and this is what I understand:
* If you go retail, you will need a beautiful graphical interface (a
plus if its 3d) to even get the attention of a publisher can can
introduce your game in a proper distribution network. I've worked in
this area 8 years ago and it was aleady nearly impossible for a single
title publisher to get into a large store chain (compUSA). Plus, the
level of graphics required results in a very large artistic and
graphic budget (probably why the story becomes secondary to the point
wher the quality is pityful). So unless you have some extraordinary
concept, you won't be able to attract a worthy publisher for your
story and forget about the disribution. Your only hope your be to make
a presentation of your story (you don't need a finish product) and
sell your concept for a ridiculous amount. IF you have money, you
could license a recognize name and adapt yoru story to it (like star
trek) which could get you in.
* The distribution formats for IF are not suitable for the general
public for internet distribution.

I would say that as of January 2, 2002, there are no practical to sell
yoru story short of making your own custom engine for your game.

David A. Cornelson

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Jan 2, 2002, 9:59:29 AM1/2/02
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"trawsars" <traw...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:2339399a.02010...@posting.google.com...

I'm one of the wayward few that think IF can be commercialized successfully
again, but only with a hitch. IF needs a banner headline and the type of
corporate support that we've never seen, not even in the glory days of
Infocom.

In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
it.

Marketing, packaging, distribution are all headaches that still need to be
resolved, but I have a few ideas I'm building towards those with
IFLibrary.Com. If I can distribute a 562 page book at cost and not lose
money (well, not too much), then why can't I publish IF games as well? I'm
wondering if we could have a standard layout of a box or package that
authors could fill in with their own art work and then get on-demand
printed? CD cases in whatever form are cheap enough. Distribution can be
handled relatively efficiently by only a handful of people.

The trick is to keep upfront expenses to a minimum, something that helped
quicken the demise of Cascade. I think it can be done, but I'm only willing
to carefully build a system that will support this sort of thing. I'm not
sure how much I can put into it without other people helping though.

Anyway, yes, someone is thinking about it. But it's so unlikely to come of
anything that you're better off ignoring the topic.

Jarb

Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

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Jan 2, 2002, 11:26:48 AM1/2/02
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trawsars wrote:

...

>
> So what does everyone think would be necessary for a large-scale
> commercial IF venture to succeed?

Make it a small-scale commercial IF venture. ;)


> There've been some good ideas tossed
> around, but no-one's really done anything. Why not? The community has
> had so much time to grow and mature this far, and you guys are so
> passionate about it - why hasn't anyone else made a try at it? What's
> needed, what's missing?

I'll offer an idea from another angle entirely.

I think a far more likely commercial success (small-scale, remember) would
be a really polished, cross-platform "build your own IF adventure game"
application. Make it as simple as Bryce for graphics. Put a room here and
a hallway there and a door here and here's the inventory and compile and
play it.

That would be a fairly oblique but effective way of reintroducing the
unparalleled tradition of interactive fiction to the current game market,
and it would probably have a non-trivial level of commercial appeal because
everyone wants to make their own computer game.

Perhaps something like this would generate enough interest to support
commercial development of a game or two. Just a thought.

--
"Well, I could explain it better, but I'd need charts
and graphs and an easel."

Scott
Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.
http://www.heavycat.com - Only the Gameplay Matters
http://www.ladystar.net - Your Magical and Mysterious Adventure Awaits

Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

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Jan 2, 2002, 11:37:49 AM1/2/02
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"David A. Cornelson" <dave at iflibrary dot com> wrote:

> "trawsars" <traw...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:2339399a.02010...@posting.google.com...
>> Been going through Google's archives on the subject. Cascade Mountain
>> Publishing is a notable failure. In one of his last posts, Michael
>> Berlyn said he'd keep trying, but that was almost 2 years ago - anyone
>> know what he's up to?
>>
>> So what does everyone think would be necessary for a large-scale
>> commercial IF venture to succeed? There've been some good ideas tossed
>> around, but no-one's really done anything. Why not? The community has
>> had so much time to grow and mature this far, and you guys are so
>> passionate about it - why hasn't anyone else made a try at it? What's
>> needed, what's missing?
>
> I'm one of the wayward few that think IF can be commercialized
> successfully again, but only with a hitch. IF needs a banner headline and
> the type of corporate support that we've never seen, not even in the glory
> days of Infocom.

Sorry to disagree. The banner headline would be great. The corporate
support could be done without.

Besides, any large game publisher is going to see IF as an anachronism,
despite its appeal or level of good gameplay. They're all too busy falling
over themselves trying to be like Hollywood (and failing miserably, for the
most part). Then again, given the general quality of movies these days
(LOTR excepted, of course), why would any company want to imitate
Hollywood?

>
> In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
> interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
> systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
> somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
> it.
>

Agreed. Don't forget the console licensing fees, though.


> Marketing, packaging, distribution are all headaches that still need to be
> resolved, but I have a few ideas I'm building towards those with
> IFLibrary.Com. If I can distribute a 562 page book at cost and not lose
> money (well, not too much), then why can't I publish IF games as well? I'm
> wondering if we could have a standard layout of a box or package that
> authors could fill in with their own art work and then get on-demand
> printed? CD cases in whatever form are cheap enough. Distribution can be
> handled relatively efficiently by only a handful of people.
>

That's a good start. Different companies will eventually want to
differentiate their products, though. There are already companies
(shareware registration services, for example) that do this as well.
Speaking for our company, we would probably prefer to handle everything
electronically to keep costs down.

> The trick is to keep upfront expenses to a minimum,

Excellent.

> that helped
> quicken the demise of Cascade. I think it can be done, but I'm only
> willing to carefully build a system that will support this sort of thing.
> I'm not sure how much I can put into it without other people helping
> though.

I'm going to give this a little more thought, and maybe write some ideas
down later to see what everyone thinks. There is some limited potential
here, but it has to balance the commercial interests of companies with
those of the game developers. The last thing needed is the model of the
current "game industry" where the economics are so overbalanced in favor of
the publishers that developers can't stay in business. Any successful
system has to be developer-based.

--
"What time is it?"
"It's nighttime"

Kevin

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Jan 2, 2002, 1:44:04 PM1/2/02
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"David A. Cornelson" <dave at iflibrary dot com> wrote in message news:<u367rk8...@corp.supernews.com>...

> In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
> interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
> systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
> somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
> it.

I wonder if such an interpreter could be compiled for the Dreamcast?
There's already a version of linux out for the DC, as well as many
types of other system emulators (Genesis and Super Nintendo, for
example), so I wonder if someone is savvy enough to come up with a
Dreamcast IF-interpreter. A keyboard is available for the system, so a
player wouldn't have to be stuck with typing out on a controller.

Alexandre Owen Muniz

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Jan 2, 2002, 1:51:28 PM1/2/02
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"David A. Cornelson" wrote:
> I'm one of the wayward few that think IF can be commercialized successfully
> again, but only with a hitch. IF needs a banner headline and the type of
> corporate support that we've never seen, not even in the glory days of
> Infocom.

There is, in fact, a recent example of commercially successful IF. I
refer to Activision's Masterpieces of Infocom collection. I think that
it illustrates what a successful commercial IF release needs to have.
To wit:

1) Lots of Games

A CD can fit a lot of IF games. So it should fit a lot of IF games. If
MoI is any indication, people are willing to pay $1 per game for a
collection of 30 games.

2) Games of a guaranteed high level of quality

Infocom did put out a few duds, but they were generally known for high
quality games. The best recent games are better than most of the
Infocom games, so we could conceivably do better here. And we already
have a mechanism for determining the community's idea of the best
recent games.

What this suggests to me is a Xyzzy awards anthology containing all
Xyzzy award nominees (assuming the authors agree to it), analogous to
the annual anthologies for the Nebula awards and such. Perhaps one
every two years would be about right; it would ensure that there would
be a sufficient quantity of games, and the work that would need to be
done per cd would only need to be done every two years. The authors of
the games would be invited to provide original content for the CDs
that wouldn't be available elsewhere for say, six months. If it were
done well, I could see this becoming a product that would be
successful both inside and outside of the community, and which could
drive demand for author or genre based collections.


>
> In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
> interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
> systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
> somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
> it.

Hmm. The problem I see here is that IF really needs a good way to
enter text, and people don't generally attach a keyboard to a game
system. Do they? I'd be inclined to stick with PCs.

<much snipped that I agree with but can't add much to>

**Owen

Peter Seebach

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Jan 2, 2002, 1:58:15 PM1/2/02
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In article <aefa50e4.02010...@posting.google.com>,

Alexandre Owen Muniz <mun...@xprt.net> wrote:
>There is, in fact, a recent example of commercially successful IF. I
>refer to Activision's Masterpieces of Infocom collection. I think that
>it illustrates what a successful commercial IF release needs to have.

And yet, think of how much more successful it could be if:
1. It came with Palm and WinCE interpreters, and appropriate data files.
2. The maps and hints were correctly sorted (e.g., the map for suspended
should be detectably part of the game materials, the map for zork II
shouldn't).
3. The scanned-in objects were better identified, and the PDF file were of
higher quality.

I would guess that, for a couple weeks' work, they could move that into the
category of things you could sell another hundred thousand copies of, just
by putting it in the Palm software area of retail stores.

-s
--
Copyright 2001, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
$ chmod a+x /bin/laden Please do not feed or harbor the terrorists.
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

David A. Cornelson

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Jan 2, 2002, 2:21:06 PM1/2/02
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"Peter Seebach" <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message
news:3c335847$0$36736$3c09...@news.plethora.net...

>
> And yet, think of how much more successful it could be if:
> 1. It came with Palm and WinCE interpreters, and appropriate data files.

This leads to another thought of mine. In the near future, the tablet-pc
will become very popular. I don't care what OS it's running, a graphically
pleasing interface on a tablet PC begs for Interactive Fiction to be
available for it.

Jarb


clan...@games-world.net

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Jan 2, 2002, 2:55:59 PM1/2/02
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"Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd." <in...@NOSPAM.heavycat.com> wrote in message
news:cxGY7.14480$B61.6...@news1.rsm1.occa.home.com...

I think when the spectrum games compiliation cd came out it sold really
well. When m.o.i came out it did the same.
Problem is that instead of quality people see text adventures as a cheap
form of entertainment. They don't seem to attach value to a game written for
the text adventure market, but seem to think that a 3d game is worth every
penny. Sorry but I am really starting to get fed up with 3d games,
especially if you go multiplayer, as there would seem to be to many people
in multiplayer cheating nowadays.
With text adventures you are emersed within a world so magical and amazing
that you'll be telling people about it, they want to have a go, but they
don't want to be seen to be wasting that 1ghz monster machine they bought at
christmas!
So what? I say forget about the mainstream and go with the games you really
like.
Actually I wonder if the present state of the games industry is related to
the windows users or console people?
I use windows myself so I am guilty also, but I am certainly thinking about
installing linux just so I can look for something else gameswise.

Am I being niave?

D.

Sean T Barrett

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Jan 2, 2002, 5:04:30 PM1/2/02
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>Do you want to make a game for sell or do you have ideas for selling
>games?
>I've had the same questions and this is what I understand:
>* If you go retail
[snip]

>* The distribution formats for IF are not suitable for the general
>public for internet distribution.

If anyone really wanted to seriously pursue this, here's what
I'd recommend:

Go shareware. Shareware *is* good for niche markets, and it
is possible to have a financial success at it, although it's
relatively rare.

Pick a single platform (or maybe two) and gussy up the interpreters
so they look nice and consistent. Bundle the interpreter executable
into the game.

Write a complete and thorough "how to play IF" manual. Write a
tutorial with a sample transcript and include it as a text file
or PDF. Supply reference information on how to play and incorporate
it into the game. (Authors shouldn't have to roll this themselves,
it should just be incorporated in the libraries in the first place,
oh well.)

Don't go for the lost treasures/masterpieces approach, instead
bundle three or four games that are carefully chosen to have
common appeal. (The ROI is going to be too sucky for more.)

Go the real shareware route: make demo versions of all the games
that only let you play part way. (Comp-sized games are probably
too small for this to work.)

All of this is a fair amount of work, and it would still be
a gamble. Plus this stops short of the real work: the hardest
part of selling shareware games right now seems to be promotion.

SeanB

kodrik

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Jan 2, 2002, 6:38:34 PM1/2/02
to
>>I use windows myself so I am guilty also, but I am certainly
thinking about
installing linux just so I can look for something else gameswise.<<

The lvlug have meets every first sunday of the month and we bring our
Linux machines.
But the night before we usually have a LAN game with some of the Linux
members and Windows is running on most machines.

If you want to code or want a server, Linux is the way to go.
If you want an easy and fast desktop, Macs are the way to go.
If you want to run most programs and games, Windows is the way to go.
It has nothing else to offer but it is an important factor.

kodrik

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Jan 2, 2002, 7:20:22 PM1/2/02
to
> I think a far more likely commercial success (small-scale, remember) would
> be a really polished, cross-platform "build your own IF adventure game"
> application. Make it as simple as Bryce for graphics. Put a room here and
> a hallway there and a door here and here's the inventory and compile and
> play it.

Command based Interactive fiction offers an unparalleled
interactivity.
You enter text commands and the environment changes depending on many
other variables. It is also a great deal of work to write and if you
have to create graphical objects for all the elements in the game on
top of that, it will take you much more time to complete (and I think
3d would be the easiest graphical object system to integrate).
As for non-command based graphical IF, there are many tools that will
allow you to do them today.

kodrik

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Jan 2, 2002, 7:27:36 PM1/2/02
to
> I'm one of the wayward few that think IF can be commercialized successfully
> again, but only with a hitch. IF needs a banner headline and the type of
> corporate support that we've never seen, not even in the glory days of
> Infocom.
>
> In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
> interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
> systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
> somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
> it.
>
> Marketing, packaging, distribution are all headaches that still need to be
> resolved, but I have a few ideas I'm building towards those with
> IFLibrary.Com. If I can distribute a 562 page book at cost and not lose
> money (well, not too much), then why can't I publish IF games as well? I'm
> wondering if we could have a standard layout of a box or package that
> authors could fill in with their own art work and then get on-demand
> printed? CD cases in whatever form are cheap enough. Distribution can be
> handled relatively efficiently by only a handful of people.

I beleive that the current engines are amazing but the product they
generate is unfortunatelly not suitable for what I is needed to reach
a large audience.
I also think as I mentionned in a previous thread that IF needs to
have a central organization for the general public.

I've offered my technical services for the organization and I took a
year off since the end of last summer to develop an IF engine that can
reach the general public. Although it is at a state where you can
write and play IF, there is still a lot of features to add before I
release it for public testing or mention its name. So, a selected
fewhaev been creating adventures with it and requesting new features
for the past two month.

My point is that if you beleive there is a market, don't wait for
others, just take the initiative and doit . Even if you fail, a step
will have been taken.
I think your idea is good. Choose an interpreter and some winning
games that run on it, make a nice package on a CD and offer it to the
general public.
If you do a press/print on order system, you are not risking too much
so its worth trying. And with luck you might find a publisher to put
it on store shelves for you (Activision?).
Set-up the system. If you are not taking any risks, no bad can come
out of it and IF in general will get more exposure.

Robb Sherwin

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Jan 2, 2002, 7:40:35 PM1/2/02
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On 2 Jan 2002 10:44:04 -0800, map...@hotmail.com (Kevin) wrote:
> I wonder if such an interpreter could be compiled for the Dreamcast?
>There's already a version of linux out for the DC, as well as many
>types of other system emulators (Genesis and Super Nintendo, for
>example), so I wonder if someone is savvy enough to come up with a
>Dreamcast IF-interpreter. A keyboard is available for the system, so a
>player wouldn't have to be stuck with typing out on a controller.

You'd need the Coder's Cable and (possibly) the VGA Box for the
Dreamcast to get started. There are instructions on how to make the
former on the net, but you can buy both from www.lik-sang.com .

With the source code available for Inform, TADS and Hugo, porting them
would (I imagine) be "easier" than some of the other consoles that
have already been successfully done. Hugo, for instance, I know is
written in ANSI C -- I don't know enough about Dreamcast development
to know if there is an easy way to compile ANSI C code for it, but
there seems to be some resources and development guides here:
http://www.boob.co.uk/ .

(Er, regardless of what the URL seems to say, it is perfectly
work-safe.)

Robb

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Home Page: http://www.joltcountry.com
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://joltcountry.dreamhost.com/trottingkrips

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 2, 2002, 11:53:08 PM1/2/02
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On Wed, 02 Jan 2002 16:26:48 GMT, Heavy Cat Multimedia
Ltd. <in...@NOSPAM.heavycat.com> wrote:
>I'll offer an idea from another angle entirely.
>
>I think a far more likely commercial success (small-scale, remember) would
>be a really polished, cross-platform "build your own IF adventure game"
>application. Make it as simple as Bryce for graphics. Put a room here and
>a hallway there and a door here and here's the inventory and compile and
>play it.
>
>That would be a fairly oblique but effective way of reintroducing the
>unparalleled tradition of interactive fiction to the current game market,
>and it would probably have a non-trivial level of commercial appeal because
>everyone wants to make their own computer game.
>

Well, this is tricky. We've sorto f been acting from the standpoint
that you need really high quality games to pull this off. Is it going
to reintroduce people to IF if we give them a tool that lets them
easily write total crap? We've pretty much established by now that it
is probably impossible for any "really easy to use flashy IF
development tool" is going to produce a lot of amazingly bad games
(indeed, may not be practically capable of producing high-quality games, as was
the case for a few of them)


Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 3, 2002, 12:24:29 AM1/3/02
to
David A. Cornelson <dave at iflibrary dot com> wrote:

> Marketing, packaging, distribution are all headaches that still need to be
> resolved, but I have a few ideas I'm building towards those with
> IFLibrary.Com. If I can distribute a 562 page book at cost and not lose
> money (well, not too much), then why can't I publish IF games as
> well?

There's an obvious difference between those two tasks:

Selling a few hundred DMs to a few hundred RAIF/RGIF readers is a
success. That's what you wanted to do. You were able to promote the
product to nearly 100% of the target audience (Inform programmers)
just by posting to the newsgroup.

Selling a few hundred copies of an IF game is a failure. At least, I'd
regard it as a failure, if it were my game. I'd rather release my next
Inform game for free than sell it, if it's only going to be sold to
people who would grab it if I released it for free.

Pardon my confused grammar. :)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Peter Seebach

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Jan 3, 2002, 12:56:56 AM1/3/02
to
In article <a10pud$stq$1...@news.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>Selling a few hundred DMs to a few hundred RAIF/RGIF readers is a
>success. That's what you wanted to do. You were able to promote the
>product to nearly 100% of the target audience (Inform programmers)
>just by posting to the newsgroup.

You'd think this would be an excellent case for publish-on-demand sites;
most of them seem to have breakeven at around 50-100 books, and everything
past that is gravy.

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 3, 2002, 3:35:14 AM1/3/02
to

Well, that's a fairly biased view (I'd have extended the last little
slam to both of the last two choices myself). There's also stuff like
"If you want to have a lot of non-server-related exotic hardware,
windows is probably the way to go", and whatever the major selling
points are for BeOS and "If you want consistency of interface across
most applications, don't go Linux".


L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 3, 2002, 4:16:48 AM1/3/02
to
On 2 Jan 2002 16:27:36 -0800, kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>I beleive that the current engines are amazing but the product they
>generate is unfortunatelly not suitable for what I is needed to reach
>a large audience.
>I also think as I mentionned in a previous thread that IF needs to
>have a central organization for the general public.

I'm not sure I understand how current systems aren't "suitable for a
larger audience". Do you mean "inform and tads don't produce
platform-native executables"? Or "The interpreters for the major IF
systems are not suitably high-quality for my purposes", or "the
current engines don't let you write games (insert adjective here)
enough".

I find the third proposition unlikely, since I can't think of an
adjective that both makes the sentence true, and makes it support your
claim. The first objection is, of course, insane, since a
terp+gamefile release is identical to a platform specific one from the
user's perspective. The middle one is the most reasonable, but I
haven't gleaned that from what you're saying.

Plugh!

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Jan 3, 2002, 7:37:26 AM1/3/02
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lrasz...@loyola.edu (L. Ross Raszewski) wrote in message news:<a10o3k$c68

> We've pretty much established by now that it
> is probably impossible for any "really easy to use flashy IF
> development tool" is going to produce a lot of amazingly bad games
> (indeed, may not be practically capable of producing high-quality games, as was
> the case for a few of them)

Hey, I'm working on it (and so are a few others, but they tend to drop
by the wayside). It's a slog, but just tedious, rather than impossible
I hope/expect to have a reasonable version available by easter.
Windows only at first (Linux with Wine or VmWare, then native when
Borland port C++ Builder to Linux as they did Delphi->Kylix), probably
never to Mac, without an emultaor (Should've used Java).

I agree though (and this is probably what you meant), that there is a
trade of in such a tool between intuitive ease of use and power-user
flexibility.

But I digress... personally, all software that I write (outside of
office hours) is given away free. I can't imagine that selling a few
100 copies of anything would be worth the administrative factor. I
think that most in i-f do it for the love of it. I also can't see
text-only ever being mainstream any more.

see http://plugh.cjb.net for current state of my feeble attempts

Alan DeNiro

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Jan 3, 2002, 1:41:44 PM1/3/02
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traw...@hotmail.com (trawsars) wrote in message news:<2339399a.02010...@posting.google.com>...

I think it needs defining what a "large scale commercial venture"
means--that is, who is the audience. I don't think, in a sense of mass
audience, that IF will be able to compete for the hearts and minds of
Joe and Jane Playstation, or by moving to different gaming consoles. I
think that it will involve understanding what kinds of people are
already interested in IF, and working to broaden that audience. This
might be a much more modest but more attainable goal. E.g., how about
focusing on bringing in more readers, rather than game-players, into
the fold? How about, say, science fiction readers? Releasing a 20-pack
of the best post-infocom SF games, selling them at dealers rooms at
cons that either are completely reader-oriented or have at least a
blend of media and reading, selling them at independent specialty
stores, creating other promotional events/hullabaloo to Get the Word
Out. In other words, this could almost involve taking an independent
publishing model and tweaking it to make nice looking products that
have qualities that a fair ammount of people might gravitate towards,
or are at least curious about. This would take a fair ammount of
leg-work in pitching IF, developing relationships and collaborations
with bookstores, IF-creators, fans, etc.

But this isn't anything new; it's done all the time with books and
music (as an example, witness Jim Munroe's odyssey with his book Angry
Young Spaceman at http://www.nomediakings.org). No one will be able to
sell IF at Waldenbooks like Infocom once did. From here new works can
be developed that will already have a somewhat larger audience built
in, perhaps even with established writers who are willing to be paid
to have a short story or novella adapted into IF.

One of the other key points, addressing the "why would anyone pay for
IF if there's so much of it for free" issue, would be that this
hypothetical company would not only be providing content for a
payment, but also a service for a payment, namely, to make the setting
up and use of games easy as hell. This might not seem important to
those of us already in an IF community, who have already figured out
how to jiggle the key in the lock (so to speak) to get to the room of
treasure on the other side, but to a new IF-player, this process needs
to have a minimum of fuss. Using executables for the top 2-3 platforms
for each game on a CD seems to be a simple solution, but I'm sure
there are others.

This is almost a nonprofit model--but maybe that would work best for a
"commercial" IF venture.

Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 2:24:00 PM1/3/02
to
Alan DeNiro wrote:

> traw...@hotmail.com (trawsars) wrote in message
> news:<2339399a.02010...@posting.google.com>...
>> Been going through Google's archives on the subject. Cascade Mountain
>> Publishing is a notable failure. In one of his last posts, Michael
>> Berlyn said he'd keep trying, but that was almost 2 years ago - anyone
>> know what he's up to?
>>
>> So what does everyone think would be necessary for a large-scale
>> commercial IF venture to succeed? There've been some good ideas tossed
>> around, but no-one's really done anything. Why not? The community has
>> had so much time to grow and mature this far, and you guys are so
>> passionate about it - why hasn't anyone else made a try at it? What's
>> needed, what's missing?
>
> I think it needs defining what a "large scale commercial venture"
> means--that is, who is the audience. I don't think, in a sense of mass
> audience, that IF will be able to compete for the hearts and minds of
> Joe and Jane Playstation, or by moving to different gaming consoles.

Agreed. There is no such thing as a "mainstream market" anymore.

> I
> think that it will involve understanding what kinds of people are
> already interested in IF, and working to broaden that audience. This
> might be a much more modest but more attainable goal. E.g., how about
> focusing on bringing in more readers, rather than game-players, into
> the fold? How about, say, science fiction readers? Releasing a 20-pack
> of the best post-infocom SF games, selling them at dealers rooms at
> cons that either are completely reader-oriented or have at least a
> blend of media and reading, selling them at independent specialty
> stores, creating other promotional events/hullabaloo to Get the Word
> Out. In other words, this could almost involve taking an independent
> publishing model and tweaking it to make nice looking products that
> have qualities that a fair ammount of people might gravitate towards,
> or are at least curious about. This would take a fair ammount of
> leg-work in pitching IF, developing relationships and collaborations
> with bookstores, IF-creators, fans, etc.

Brilliant.


--
FOURTH DOWN AND GOAL FROM THE THREE!!!

Scott
Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

Al

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 2:43:00 PM1/3/02
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>
>
> Selling a few hundred copies of an IF game is a failure. At least, I'd
> regard it as a failure, if it were my game. I'd rather release my next
> Inform game for free than sell it, if it's only going to be sold to
> people who would grab it if I released it for free.
>
> Pardon my confused grammar. :)
>
>

Just out of curiosity and for those who remember it. How many actual
copies of Once and Future were sold? I remember either Berlyn or
someone else posting to the group a couple of years ago that after CMP
sold what it could at least 1500 -2000 copies were sent to the proverbial
"shredder" and destroyed ! ! ! !

How many dead presidents went down the rathole on that one?

T Raymond

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 11:48:34 PM1/3/02
to
Andrew Plotkin was overheard typing about:

> There's an obvious difference between those two tasks:
>
> Selling a few hundred DMs to a few hundred RAIF/RGIF readers is a
> success. That's what you wanted to do. You were able to promote
> the product to nearly 100% of the target audience (Inform
> programmers) just by posting to the newsgroup.

Hmmm, this presumes that everyone who bought the DM was an Inform
programmer? Does that mean we should presume that only IF players
might purchase whatever product might come because of this line of
discussion? I can't answer that second question. As for the first, I
bought one, and I don't program in Inform. Go figure.

Just my 5% for nothing...

Tom
--
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Tom Raymond af956 AT osfnDOTorg
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Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 12:25:17 AM1/4/02
to
T Raymond <ar...@see.the.sig> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin was overheard typing about:

>> There's an obvious difference between those two tasks:
>>
>> Selling a few hundred DMs to a few hundred RAIF/RGIF readers is a
>> success. That's what you wanted to do. You were able to promote
>> the product to nearly 100% of the target audience (Inform
>> programmers) just by posting to the newsgroup.

> Hmmm, this presumes that everyone who bought the DM was an Inform
> programmer?

Well, um, yes. Or wanted to try it.

> Does that mean we should presume that only IF players
> might purchase whatever product might come because of this line of
> discussion?

No, I'm saying that that's the critical issue.

If someone tries commercial IF, and only current IF fans buy it, then
it's not a success for commercial IF. It's just a bunch of us standing
in a circle, passing $5 or $20 bills to each other.

David Cornelson's printing service may be a great thing for producing
a commercial IF product, but it's a moot question unless you know how
you're going to get that product to a wider audience.

> I can't answer that second question. As for the first, I
> bought one, and I don't program in Inform.

Okay, but you're not statistically significant. :)

I presume you were supporting the venture because you personally
wanted it to succeed. So did I. (I bought one copy for that reason, in
addition to the copy I bought to read. :) But that kind of revenue
stream doesn't scale up.

(The author of a novel can count on his family and friends buying
copies, but that doesn't make him a successful author.)

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 12:43:23 AM1/4/02
to
"T Raymond" <ar...@see.the.sig> wrote in message
news:Xns918C1831...@209.25.157.130...

> Andrew Plotkin was overheard typing about:
>
> > There's an obvious difference between those two tasks:
> >
> > Selling a few hundred DMs to a few hundred RAIF/RGIF readers is a
> > success. That's what you wanted to do. You were able to promote
> > the product to nearly 100% of the target audience (Inform
> > programmers) just by posting to the newsgroup.
>
> Hmmm, this presumes that everyone who bought the DM was an Inform
> programmer? Does that mean we should presume that only IF players
> might purchase whatever product might come because of this line of
> discussion? I can't answer that second question. As for the first, I
> bought one, and I don't program in Inform. Go figure.

I'm not an Inform programmer either, but I bought a copy because it's a
tremendous resource, not only of lore, but of ideas.

To further carry the line of reasoning, TADS 3 has targetted itself toward
the programmer familiar with Java. That's nearly every kid out of Uni these
days - web-saavy and still drunk on the foam of the dot-com bubble.

But reaching out to new players/authors, and marketting games aren't
necessarily the same thing. The smart thing to do is grow a base of
players/authors and worry about the money later. Once the base is fat enough
corporations will turn their eyes our way. But in the meantime learn the
craft, enjoy the community, and have fun.

On the other hand... go for it, no harm done.

--Kevin


Kevin Forchione

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 12:47:16 AM1/4/02
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:a13ebt$t30$1...@news.panix.com...

> (The author of a novel can count on his family and friends buying
> copies, but that doesn't make him a successful author.)

Except in certain counties of Wales...

--Kevin


trawsars

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 6:18:00 AM1/4/02
to
Thanks for everyone's replies. I personally have given some thought to
starting a commercial IF venture, and am currently exploring some
possibilities. I have some ideas, and if you guys don't mind me
saying, I'm glad nobody here has suggested what I'm thinking of. :)

Still, the likelihood of any of my completely insubstantial ideas
getting off the ground is currently zero, so don't nobody hold their
breaths. :)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 10:34:50 AM1/4/02
to

Hey, _The King's Peace_ and _The King's Name_ are selling very well in
their own right. Recommended, and not just because I know Jo.

T Raymond

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 7:54:03 PM1/4/02
to
Andrew Plotkin was overheard typing about:

>> Hmmm, this presumes that everyone who bought the DM was an


>> Inform programmer?
>
> Well, um, yes. Or wanted to try it.

Eventually, it's real low on my list at the moment.



> No, I'm saying that that's the critical issue.
>
> If someone tries commercial IF, and only current IF fans buy it,
> then it's not a success for commercial IF. It's just a bunch of
> us standing in a circle, passing $5 or $20 bills to each other.

I agree. I was just trying to point out that my own example shows
that some will probably buy it anyway.



> Okay, but you're not statistically significant. :)

Hmm, you don't work for the IRS by any chance do you? ;)



> I presume you were supporting the venture because you personally
> wanted it to succeed. So did I. (I bought one copy for that
> reason, in addition to the copy I bought to read. :) But that
> kind of revenue stream doesn't scale up.

Something like that. I hoped it might be a successful thing. I could
actually afford it. It was a way to somehow support something I
enjoy. For purely selfish reasons, I was hoping if it went well,
other manuals might be attempted. It was mentioned as a possibility
some time after the first sale run. If a TADS manual is done in a
similar printing, I'll buy at least one of those.

kodrik

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 1:40:20 AM1/5/02
to
lrasz...@loyola.edu (L. Ross Raszewski) wrote in message > if we give them a tool that lets them

> easily write total crap? We've pretty much established by now that it
> is probably impossible for any "really easy to use flashy IF
> development tool" is going to produce a lot of amazingly bad games
> (indeed, may not be practically capable of producing high-quality games, as > was the case for a few of them)

I don't see why it's not possible.
In 1990, I worked for a company that equiped the newspaper industry
with desktop publishing equipment.
At the time, page layout was completelly coded with special system.
They were reluctant to go to page layout programs such as Ready Set Go
or Ventura because they weren't powerful enough.
Pictures were seperated by chromist because it was considered higher
quality than digital seperation.
Today, I don't think there are many publications that don't use a
visual layout program such as XPress or don't create print their films
seperated from a digital source.
Now, you can manipulate layouts and pictures in ways you couldn't
dream of 15 years ago, without typing a line of code and with
incredible speed.

I think it's the same with IF engine, adventure creating will use
predefined modules that will enable to relate to the different
elements of the stories with results similar to today's IF engines,
but with it there will also be so much more potential.
It is a large amount of work because you have to completelly rethink
how it is done today, take a different approach to almost everything;
and not forget some important relationship between elements.

It will be good for newcomers to IF because but harder for authors
using command because they will have to restructure the way they
assemble stories.
That was very true in the press, where many people didn't want to use
gui tools because it conflicted too much with a skill they took many
years to develop.

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 3:12:20 AM1/5/02
to
"kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
news:269806b2.02010...@posting.google.com...

> I think it's the same with IF engine, adventure creating will use
> predefined modules that will enable to relate to the different
> elements of the stories with results similar to today's IF engines,
> but with it there will also be so much more potential.
> It is a large amount of work because you have to completelly rethink
> how it is done today, take a different approach to almost everything;
> and not forget some important relationship between elements.
>
> It will be good for newcomers to IF because but harder for authors
> using command because they will have to restructure the way they
> assemble stories.
> That was very true in the press, where many people didn't want to use
> gui tools because it conflicted too much with a skill they took many
> years to develop.

We seem to be forgetting that IF isn't the static manipulation of text,
graphics, and sound, but a computer program. It would seem more sensible to
look to the standards set by the commercial program development
environments, i.e. JBuilder or Visual C++.

I can understand how one could be mislead to comparing an IF development
system to a desktop publishing package, but beyond the fact that both use
text to convey information, the two have nothing in common. Expertise in
desktop publishing won't make you an interactive fiction author.

--Kevin


dgr...@cs.csuabk.edu

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 4:49:01 AM1/5/02
to
Kevin <map...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> "David A. Cornelson" <dave at iflibrary dot com> wrote in message news:<u367rk8...@corp.supernews.com>...

>> In any case, the thing that might help sell IF games is visually pleasing
>> interpreter that can wrapped up with a game and played on the various game
>> systems, like x-box, ps2, gamecube, etc. So I write a game, compile it
>> somehow with this PlayStation 2 interpreter, then I might be able to sell
>> it.

> I wonder if such an interpreter could be compiled for the Dreamcast?


> There's already a version of linux out for the DC, as well as many
> types of other system emulators (Genesis and Super Nintendo, for
> example), so I wonder if someone is savvy enough to come up with a
> Dreamcast IF-interpreter. A keyboard is available for the system, so a
> player wouldn't have to be stuck with typing out on a controller.

Given that Linux and NetBSD run on Dreamcast, I presume that all IF
interpreters which run on Unix will work. A general-purpose operating
system isn't necessary for a video game machine. Create a CD containing a
kernel, IF interpreters, game files, front-end, and only whatever else
needed to support this. Booting the CD would load the kernel which then
starts the front-end rather than init(8).

Assuming the OS is up to it, you can probably do the same thing with PSX,
PSX2, Gamecube, or Xbox.


--
David Griffith
dgr...@cs.csubak.edu

joh

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 9:19:36 AM1/5/02
to
>>>>> "Kevin" == Kevin Forchione <Ke...@lysseus.com> writes:

Kevin> We seem to be forgetting that IF isn't the static
Kevin> manipulation of text, graphics, and sound, but a computer
Kevin> program. It would seem more sensible to look to the
Kevin> standards set by the commercial program development
Kevin> environments, i.e. JBuilder or Visual C++.

Perhaps someone has suggested this before, but an idea just struck
me.

Environments like JBuilder and Visual studio are mostly useful for
building GUIs because they are, themselves, GUIs. Many programmers I
know (myself included) program GUI interfaces in these tools but do
all of the back end in a non-GUI text editor.

If GUIs are good for making GUIs, maybe text interfaces are better for
making IF. Imagine working with something like this:

> n

There is no room to the north. Do you want to define one?

> yes

What is the new room called?

> Scary Room

Please describe the Scary Room.

> You have entered a scary room. Sheet-covered furniture surrounds
you. A large granfather clock ticks ominously.

What's in the scary room?

> furniture

Any synonyms for furniture?


And so on. Of course, this might well be combined with a GUI map
editor, etc.

joh

mathew

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 12:45:03 AM1/5/02
to
Robb Sherwin <bea...@zombieworld.com> wrote:
> With the source code available for Inform, TADS and Hugo, porting them
> would (I imagine) be "easier" than some of the other consoles that
> have already been successfully done. Hugo, for instance, I know is
> written in ANSI C -- I don't know enough about Dreamcast development
> to know if there is an easy way to compile ANSI C code for it [...]

Well, I'd assume so, given that it runs Windows CE.

What I don't get is why you'd want to put lots of effort into developing
IF software for a dead platform with a strictly finite number of
consoles out there. You'd be better off developing for PlayStation, and
then your games would also run on PlayStation 2. Many, many more
possible players. PlayStation 2 has an official keyboard, for the
original PlayStation you could bundle an adaptor with your game.


mathew
--
<URL:http://www.pobox.com/~meta/>
Reporting live from the People's Republic of Cambridge

kodrik

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 1:01:20 AM1/6/02
to
>>We seem to be forgetting that IF isn't the static manipulation of
text,
graphics, and sound, but a computer program. It would seem more
sensible to
look to the standards set by the commercial program development
environments, i.e. JBuilder or Visual C++.<<

My example was to illustrate that even if scripting seems to give so
much power that it can't be replaced by a gui interface, it has in the
past been effectively replaced.

An IF adventure is a great number of data that relate to each other in
complex ways to output a custom message and checks matches for user
input.
If you organize your data and write libraries to cover all those
possible combinations, you can make a gui interface.
It's a lot of works and seems impossible, just like converting desktop
publishing lingo to an gui interface did 10 years ago.
Acceptance from power users is quite hard.

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 3:32:21 AM1/6/02
to
"kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
news:269806b2.02010...@posting.google.com...

> An IF adventure is a great number of data that relate to each other in


> complex ways to output a custom message and checks matches for user
> input.
> If you organize your data and write libraries to cover all those
> possible combinations, you can make a gui interface.
>
> It's a lot of works and seems impossible, just like converting desktop
> publishing lingo to an gui interface did 10 years ago.
> Acceptance from power users is quite hard.

I do not believe that one can "cover all possible combinations of the data",
precisely because with modern IF development systems this is not known until
compile time. I also do not think that one can compare an application with a
database ("a great collection of data that relate to each other in complex
ways"), or a static document, such as produced by a publication app, with an
IF game, which is a computer program.

Well... I think the "proof is in the pudding" and can be demonstrated.

Take a system such as AGT. It's small and not very extensible, by modern
standards. Although an AGT game is a computer program, its data *is*
organized in a database-fashion (TADS and Inform, on the other hand model
game objects using object-oriented methodology) and should be more compliant
to the organization of data and the reformulation of the library that you
have in mind.

--Kevin


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 3:41:49 AM1/6/02
to
On Sat, 05 Jan 2002 14:19:36 GMT, joh <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote:
>
>Environments like JBuilder and Visual studio are mostly useful for
>building GUIs because they are, themselves, GUIs. Many programmers I
>know (myself included) program GUI interfaces in these tools but do
>all of the back end in a non-GUI text editor.
>
>If GUIs are good for making GUIs, maybe text interfaces are better for
>making IF. Imagine working with something like this:
>
>> n
>
>There is no room to the north. Do you want to define one?
>
>> yes
>
>What is the new room called?
>
>> Scary Room
>
>Please describe the Scary Room.
>
>> You have entered a scary room. Sheet-covered furniture surrounds
>you. A large granfather clock ticks ominously.
>
>What's in the scary room?
>
>> furniture
>
>Any synonyms for furniture?
>
>
>And so on. Of course, this might well be combined with a GUI map
>editor, etc.
>
>joh

This *actually was* suggested a few years back. THe conclusion drawn
then was that this would be unusable for a game of any size, because
you're talking about a combinatorial explosion.

joh

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 8:20:35 AM1/6/02
to
>>>>> "L Ross" == L Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> writes:

L Ross> On Sat, 05 Jan 2002 14:19:36 GMT, joh


L Ross> <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote:
>> Environments like JBuilder and Visual studio are mostly useful
>> for building GUIs because they are, themselves, GUIs. Many
>> programmers I know (myself included) program GUI interfaces in
>> these tools but do all of the back end in a non-GUI text
>> editor.
>>
>> If GUIs are good for making GUIs, maybe text interfaces are
>> better for making IF. Imagine working with something like this:
>>
>>> n
>> There is no room to the north. Do you want to define one?
>>

...

L Ross> This *actually was* suggested a few years back. THe
L Ross> conclusion drawn then was that this would be unusable for
L Ross> a game of any size, because you're talking about a
L Ross> combinatorial explosion.

Yeah, I thought of that, but I now realize I left out the important
part of my example. All of the objects created would just have the
default properties, unless you tried a particular action:

>x coin

IDE generates:
Object -> coin;

Enter description for coin

>The coin is bent and tarnished

IDE edits its coin description to:
Object -> coin
with description "The coin is bent and tarnished.";

>eat coin

IDE edits its coin description to:
Object -> coin
with description "The coin is bent and tarnished."
has edible;

>after

IDE edits its coin description to:
Object -> coin
with description "The coin is bent and tarnished.",
after [;
Eat: rtrue;
]
has edible;

After eat coin?

> The coin slides down your throat.;

IDE edits its coin description to:
Object -> coin
with description "The coin is bent and tarnished.",
after [;
Eat: "The coin slides down your throat.";
]
has edible;


Well, don't grade me on Inform syntax, but you get the idea. I don't
suggest you could construct the whole game this way, but it might be
an intuitive way to get most of the objects and associated text
strings in place.

I'm not really pushing this, by the way-- just exploring it. The
biggest possible drawback I foresee is that you would have to learn
special commands like "after," and if there are too many of these, it
will get as complex as just writing the code.

joh

David Glasser

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 4:51:14 PM1/6/02
to
joh <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote:

[ideas for IF systems where you modify the world interactively]
[I have no particular quote by anyone to reply to]

This is, of course, how worlds are created on MUDs and MOOs and the
like. Some of them are pretty complex.

I've given some thought to playing around with such a thing (who
hasn't?). One problem with what is essentially incremental interactive
compilation is that changes can subtly make the "current state" an
impossible state to attain if you had restarted. Hmm.

--
David Glasser
ne...@davidglasser.net http://www.davidglasser.net/

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