[Announce] IF Authors' Workshop

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Jim Aikin

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Apr 22, 2008, 11:43:33 PM4/22/08
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After reading various threads, and especially some posts from Jeff
Nyman, I'm announcing a new co-op IF Authors' Workshop.

First-time authors are welcome, as are those who have been around the
track once or twice. The goal is to help one another with every aspect
of authorship except coding problems (which are better handled on
r.a.i-f). Writing, story development, character development, puzzles ...
it's all fair game.

Details, including instructions on how to join the workshop, are at
www.musicwords.net/if/if_workshop.htm.

--Jim Aikin

P.S.: In case you're wondering, who is this Jim Aikin guy, I've written
two large games (Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, Lydia's Heart) and
co-written one shorter game (Mrs. Pepper's Nasty Secret) with Eric Eve.
I came in 2nd in last year's IntroComp with an as-yet-barely-begun game
called Tin. I'm also the author of a couple of out-of-print novels and
some other stuff.

S. John Ross

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Apr 22, 2008, 11:54:47 PM4/22/08
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> I came in 2nd in last year's IntroComp with an as-yet-barely-begun game
> called Tin.

I liked that one :)

Gio

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Apr 23, 2008, 1:09:24 AM4/23/08
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> The workshop will be agnostic with respect to development system: You
> can use Inform 6 or 7, TADS 2 or 3, ADRIFT, Hugo, or even BASIC. You
> will be expected to provide alpha release versions that can run on,
> at the very least, both Mac and Windows platforms.

Well. I hate to say it, but this statement is a *little* contradictory.
Not every development system is cross-platform like that. Not the 'big
ones', of course, but they exist.

- Gio

--
AND NOW FOR A WORD (an IF blog):

http://giomancer.wordpress.com/

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 2:29:56 AM4/23/08
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Gio wrote:
>> The workshop will be agnostic with respect to development system: You
>> can use Inform 6 or 7, TADS 2 or 3, ADRIFT, Hugo, or even BASIC. You
>> will be expected to provide alpha release versions that can run on,
>> at the very least, both Mac and Windows platforms.
>
> Well. I hate to say it, but this statement is a *little* contradictory.
> Not every development system is cross-platform like that. Not the 'big
> ones', of course, but they exist.

True enough. But if you're writing a BASIC game for the Commodore-64 or
a HyperCard stack for MacOS 7.1, how will the other workshop
participants be able to preview and critique your work? That's really
what it comes down to. If you're working with an oddball system, then
the onus is on you to figure out how to deliver the content to the
workshop participants.

Perhaps I should have said "as agnostic as possible". And doubtless a
few Linux users (of whom there are a number in this group) will feel
left out -- but are there any major IF development systems that run on
Windows and MacOS but not on Linux?

A thornier question is, what if your game relies on graphics? The state
of cross-platform IF graphics compatibility is not entirely guaranteed,
even when the text game itself can be played.

We'll pay the troll under that bridge when we come to it.

--JA

Depresiv

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Apr 23, 2008, 2:33:01 AM4/23/08
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Hi Jim!

Could someone enter in this workshop with just some nebulous idea for
a project? :D

I was wondering... I have this idea for an absurdly ambitious huge
adventure. I've never found the courage to start with it, also because
I think this idea should have a much more complete "draft" before
starting to code it.

My question is... would this be a correct place to just write down the
ideas I have for the story, setting, characters etc... so you could
help me developing it a bit more, and finding the "gaps" in it where I
haven't still found them?

--Depresiv

Mario Donick

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Apr 23, 2008, 2:57:13 AM4/23/08
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Jim Aikin schrieb:

> After reading various threads, and especially some posts from Jeff
> Nyman, I'm announcing a new co-op IF Authors' Workshop.

Ok, I would like to participate...? However, I'm not sure if I got all
points of the organization - it's a "virtual" workshop, isn't it? Where
do I "sign up"?

I would use a system I developed in FreePascal for writing text
adventures; so it could be run on Linux, Windows, MacOS etc. Until now,
I never released it and I never released an IF (until now, I mostly
worked on roguelikes). I wouldn't be so much interested in coding
issues, but in story related things.


Mario Donick

David Fisher

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Apr 23, 2008, 3:06:26 AM4/23/08
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>>> On 23/04/2008 at 4:33 pm, in message
<07a2b1ce-4569-4a13...@x35g2000hsb.googlegroups.com>,

Depresiv<pablo...@yahoo.es> wrote:
> On 23 abr, 05:43, Jim Aikin <midigur...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
>> After reading various threads, and especially some posts from Jeff
>> Nyman, I'm announcing a new co-op IF Authors' Workshop.
...

> Could someone enter in this workshop with just some nebulous idea for
> a project? :D
>
> I was wondering... I have this idea for an absurdly ambitious huge
> adventure. I've never found the courage to start with it, also because
> I think this idea should have a much more complete "draft" before
> starting to code it.
>
> My question is... would this be a correct place to just write down the
> ideas I have for the story, setting, characters etc... so you could
> help me developing it a bit more, and finding the "gaps" in it where I
> haven't still found them?

I'd like to second that question, and add a bit:

On the description page, it says that an Alpha version of the ongoing game should be made available every week or two. The way I have written games so far, the first half involves a lot of playing around and experimenting with ways of doing thing, setting up the internal design, etc. - things which might not be in any kind of a state to give to someone to try playing. Many details (especially prose) get filled in later, since if I did them too early they would have to be replaced too often.

So is there room in this workshop for detailed design discussion instead of regular Alpha versions (at least towards the beginning, while some fundamental parts of the design are still in flux) - or does the whole thing depend on a different kind of IF authoring process than I am used to?

David Fisher


Taylor Vaughan

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Apr 23, 2008, 9:54:15 AM4/23/08
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Sounds like a great idea. One question though. This came up as a
result of discussion over longer IF, is the purpose of this to develop
longer IF or just to develop better IF in general?

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 11:50:22 AM4/23/08
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Depresiv wrote:
>
> Could someone enter in this workshop with just some nebulous idea for
> a project? :D

Good question. I think part of the concept for the workshop is that
people would be exchanging alpha builds of works-in-progress.

There is, of course, a planning process that will naturally occur before
you start working on a new game. This might take several evenings, or a
couple of weeks. But at the end of that period of time, I would hope you
would be ready to start writing code for the first few rooms and objects.

Even if you're still unclear about what will happen in the latter part
of the game, I think you'd need to have something that folks can
actually launch in an interpreter, and I think you would need to be
building more stuff onto that starting code every week.

Brainstorming is useful, but I worry a little about the participants'
time being soaked up with "gee wouldn't it be neat" project ideas that
are not being seriously developed.

> I was wondering... I have this idea for an absurdly ambitious huge
> adventure. I've never found the courage to start with it, also because
> I think this idea should have a much more complete "draft" before
> starting to code it.

I would encourage you to start coding it. You don't have to have every
detail worked out in your mind before you start! Quite naturally your
ideas will change as you go along. But as someone once said, "A journey
of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Until you take that
step, a workshop would have very limited value for you.

> My question is... would this be a correct place to just write down the
> ideas I have for the story, setting, characters etc... so you could
> help me developing it a bit more, and finding the "gaps" in it where I
> haven't still found them?

Don't worry about filling in every single gap. Start writing the game.
At that point (a) your ideas will start to percolate, and (b) you'll
have something to show to the other workshop participants.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:02:24 PM4/23/08
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David Fisher wrote:
>>
>> My question is... would this be a correct place to just write down the
>> ideas I have for the story, setting, characters etc... so you could
>> help me developing it a bit more, and finding the "gaps" in it where I
>> haven't still found them?
>
> I'd like to second that question, and add a bit:
>
> On the description page, it says that an Alpha version of the ongoing
> game should be made available every week or two. The way I have written
> games so far, the first half involves a lot of playing around and
> experimenting with ways of doing thing, setting up the internal design,
> etc. - things which might not be in any kind of a state to give to
> someone to try playing. Many details (especially prose) get filled in
> later, since if I did them too early they would have to be replaced too often.
>
> So is there room in this workshop for detailed design discussion instead
> of regular Alpha versions (at least towards the beginning, while some
> fundamental parts of the design are still in flux) - or does the whole
> thing depend on a different kind of IF authoring process than I am
> used to?

I hadn't really thought about how the design process and the
implementation process interact. (See, the learning process has already
started!) I think this is a fair question, and I don't want to slam the
door on people who work in a different way than I do.

I also acknowledge that large projects require more up-front planning
than short projects. And I would love to encourage people to develop
grand, ambitious games!

As a slight emendation of what I just posted in reply to Depresiv, I'd
suggest that if you have completed and released a game in the past, I
would expect workshop participants to be much more willing to engage in
pure brainstorming with you. (Heck, brainstorming takes less time than
wandering around in an unfinished game!) Does that seem like a fair
criterion?

If there are several folks who have never written games and haven't yet
started coding, but who want to join a workshop, I think we should start
a second, parallel workshop strictly for brainstorming and motivation.
That might be the best solution.

Until a person has completed and released a game, I worry not only that
brainstorming will prove to be a waste of time (because the game may
never be finished) but that the prospective author's ideas will be too
vague or impractical to be implemented.

There is a point at which the rubber has to hit the road. If you bring a
neat idea for a multi-part puzzle to the workshop, and if you get
feedback from others on how to refine the idea, I think we'd all hope to
see a working version within a week or two. I know I would! If no
working version was forthcoming, I would expect that the participants'
interest in brainstorming with you would wane pretty rapidly.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:05:34 PM4/23/08
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Mario Donick wrote:
>
> Ok, I would like to participate...? However, I'm not sure if I got all
> points of the organization - it's a "virtual" workshop, isn't it? Where
> do I "sign up"?

On my web page it indicates that you need to send me an email with a bit
of information. This fact is buried in the middle of the Guidelines
(partly on purpose, to see if people are reading closely).

> I would use a system I developed in FreePascal for writing text
> adventures; so it could be run on Linux, Windows, MacOS etc. Until now,
> I never released it and I never released an IF (until now, I mostly
> worked on roguelikes). I wouldn't be so much interested in coding
> issues, but in story related things.

Sounds cool, Mario. Alternate programming tools are very welcome! All
you'll need to do is be able to compile your game on each platform and
verify that the alpha build will run. (Folks are not going to run
compilers for you.)

Send me an email.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:09:47 PM4/23/08
to
Taylor Vaughan wrote:
>
> Sounds like a great idea. One question though. This came up as a
> result of discussion over longer IF, is the purpose of this to develop
> longer IF or just to develop better IF in general?

Better IF in general. If you want to write a one-room game, that's fine!
Naturally, large works are also fine.

I hasten to add that I'm not putting myself forward as an alleged
authority on what "better IF" would be. I expect that all workshop
participants will have their own ideas, some of which will be quite
different from mine. And each participant will be free to ignore (or
ridicule) suggestions that they don't like.

The idea is a little more basic -- to engage in a dialog about design
issues (and writing issues) so that all of the participants will have a
better idea of the choices that they face as authors.

--JA

Sami

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:32:20 PM4/23/08
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On Apr 23, 12:02 pm, Jim Aikin <midigur...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> If there are several folks who have never written games and haven't yet
> started coding, but who want to join a workshop, I think we should start
> a second, parallel workshop strictly for brainstorming and motivation.
> That might be the best solution.

This is a cool idea, but I don't see why it should be limited to
people who have never released a game. I released one small, puzzly
game, and I have a couple more small, puzzly games in alpha. But, I
have an idea for a bigger, more story-oriented game that I haven't
started coding yet and I would definitely appreciate a brainstorming-
type of workshop for that.

It's really annoying, especially for a big game I imagine, when you
make a major design change after you've started coding. You have to
go change all your code, and then test to make sure you did it all
right. The reason I haven't started coding the big game is that I
don't have the design completely worked out, and I don't want to go
through that.

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:42:52 PM4/23/08
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Sami wrote:
> On Apr 23, 12:02 pm, Jim Aikin <midigur...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
>> If there are several folks who have never written games and haven't yet
>> started coding, but who want to join a workshop, I think we should start
>> a second, parallel workshop strictly for brainstorming and motivation.
>> That might be the best solution.
>
> This is a cool idea, but I don't see why it should be limited to
> people who have never released a game. I released one small, puzzly
> game, and I have a couple more small, puzzly games in alpha. But, I
> have an idea for a bigger, more story-oriented game that I haven't
> started coding yet and I would definitely appreciate a brainstorming-
> type of workshop for that.

If you've released a game, then I think the main (original) workshop
concept might be a good fit for you. I'm certainly not trying to
preclude brainstorming! If other people want a strictly-brainstorming
workshop with no alpha build sharing, then that's the direction we'll go.

> It's really annoying, especially for a big game I imagine, when you
> make a major design change after you've started coding. You have to
> go change all your code, and then test to make sure you did it all
> right. The reason I haven't started coding the big game is that I
> don't have the design completely worked out, and I don't want to go
> through that.

That makes sense. But how long would it take to create the first couple
of rooms? I guess maybe I'm not understanding what you mean by "a major
design change". I mean, if the story is set in a castle, that isn't
likely to change, is it? If you're still wondering whether it's set in a
castle, a forest, or a shopping mall, I'm not sure you're ready to
present it to a workshop.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Apr 23, 2008, 12:48:30 PM4/23/08
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Jim Aikin wrote:

> If you've released a game, then I think the main (original) workshop
> concept might be a good fit for you. I'm certainly not trying to
> preclude brainstorming! If other people want a strictly-brainstorming
> workshop with no alpha build sharing, then that's the direction we'll go.

As a footnote to that, I'm also hoping that there will be some
discussion of the writing -- the prose of the game as it presents itself
to the player. If your workflow is to write all of the room descriptions
before you start coding, then you would of course have work to share
even if you don't have a working game yet.

The room descriptions in my own games often change, however, based on
events that occur during the action. So a file containing static room
descriptions doesn't really present the text the way the player will
experience it. And ultimately, what matters is how the player
experiences your writing. It's probably very difficult to judge how
well, say, the description of an NPC will work until you meet the NPC in
a room and observe them for a few turns.

--JA

Mario Donick

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Apr 24, 2008, 3:18:18 AM4/24/08
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Jim Aikin schrieb:

> Mario Donick wrote:
>>
>> Ok, I would like to participate...? However, I'm not sure if I got all
>> points of the organization - it's a "virtual" workshop, isn't it?
>> Where do I "sign up"?
>
> On my web page it indicates that you need to send me an email with a bit
> of information. This fact is buried in the middle of the Guidelines
> (partly on purpose, to see if people are reading closely).

Well, it seems I did not read closely enough ... sorry.

>> I would use a system I developed in FreePascal for writing text
>> adventures; so it could be run on Linux, Windows, MacOS etc. Until

> Sounds cool, Mario. Alternate programming tools are very welcome! All

> you'll need to do is be able to compile your game on each platform and
> verify that the alpha build will run. (Folks are not going to run
> compilers for you.)


Okay ... currently I'm only able to provide binaries for Windows and
Linux but not for Mac (it would be rather easy, a one-liner fpc fptae.pp
entered in a terminal window would be enough, but I simply don't know
anybody who has a Mac)

As I want to stay with my FreePascal system, I can't join the workshop
right now.

Thanks for the information.

Mario Donick

Jim Aikin

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Apr 24, 2008, 12:29:42 PM4/24/08
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Mario Donick wrote:
>
> Okay ... currently I'm only able to provide binaries for Windows and
> Linux but not for Mac (it would be rather easy, a one-liner fpc fptae.pp
> entered in a terminal window would be enough, but I simply don't know
> anybody who has a Mac)
>
> As I want to stay with my FreePascal system, I can't join the workshop
> right now.

Well, I'm pretty sure one of the people who has expressed interest in
the workshop is a Mac user. If this is all that's stopping you, I can
ask him if he would be willing to do the compilation (for himself and
other Mac users) for you.

Email me if that seems like a viable solution.

--JA

Mario Donick

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Apr 25, 2008, 3:35:22 AM4/25/08
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Jim Aikin schrieb:


Okay, you've got an e-mail.

Mario

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