Second Release of "Curses" and "Inform"
My game "Curses", plodding along in the footsteps of the classics, has now
picked up one more Infocom trait: the original has been superseded, after
mere months have passed, by Release 8, serial number 930603. The old
Release 7 thus becomes a collector's item. (I wouldn't hold your breath
waiting for it to become valuable, though.)
Release 8 incorporates some 39 improvements on the original. About half of
these are bug fixes, none particularly serious. Some bugs were minute
(eg, saying "the windows is in the way", not "are"); others were exotic (eg,
caused by climbing into the dumbwaiter, turning the torch off, getting out
in the dark and turning the torch on again). A couple resulted in rare
garbled strings being printed; these turned out to be compiler faults. One
bug was idiotic: the torch flickered even when not being carried. I hope
this tale is a salutary warning to any authors who think, as I thought, that
their games have been fully play-tested. In any case, every reported bug
has been fixed.
The 20 or so enhancements are mostly minor additions, many implementing
suggestions sent to me along the lines of "Why can't you...". It copes
with non-proportional fonts, and the instructions have been tidied up. A
number of the new features are more substantial. Experienced cursers may
like to look at the slide projector afresh; and Madame Sosostris, famously
annoying clairvoyante, will now entertain guests to a second sitting. There
is also a hopefully-pleasant surprise in store for anyone who wins the game.
(I believe several people have already done so.)
In all, "Curses" has grown from 115K to 123K in length, which is quite a
significant amount of Z-machine code. I have held Release 8 back until now
because, unavoidably, Release 7 saved games cannot be used with it, which
will be an inconvenience to players half-way through. I do not anticipate a
Release 9 in the near future.
All those who sent me bug reports and suggestions are credited, and I thank
them again now for their enthusiasm.
In addition, "Inform", the compiler which produced "Curses" and which is
freely available to anyone who wants to write an Infocom story-file for
themselves, has been re-released in a much more usable and efficient form.
Although there are only a few new features (see the manual), many little
bugs have been corrected and the code has been made more portable (it is in
ANSI C) and much more efficient. It used to require about 1M of workspace,
and now consumes 75K, for instance. The source code contains commentary to
help anyone porting the program to their own machines. It should be quite
feasible to run Inform on a modest PC.
"Curses" and "Inform", together with some example Inform files, are
available from the IF-archive at ftp.gmd.de. The "manual" file for Inform
also contains some articles on game design which have been discussed a
little on these newsgroups, and a detailed specification for the Z-machine
which I believe is not otherwise to be found anywhere. I hope that at some
time in the future the FAQ postings will make mention of these files, but at
present neither group's FAQ does.
A number of people have written to ask if I mind "Curses" being distributed
further, on local systems. Provided it is not being charged for, I am only
too happy to give my permission.
Lastly I should like to thank once again all those who have taken the
trouble to write to me, and to play "Curses". Designing is not a game to be
played solitaire; and I'm glad my Attics have not remained untrodden.
Oxford University, UK