Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Writing interactive fiction with Inform 7

avarney | 18 May 2006 16:25
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As I described in my article "> Read Game" in The Escapist issue 7, there is still a small but devoted audience for interactive fiction (text games). Now IF fan Graham Nelson has released Inform 7, the latest version of a venerable program many IF authors use to craft their stories.

By text game standards, Inform 7 is really quite the big deal:

"Three years in the making, Inform 7 is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided both by contemporary work in semantics and by the practical experience of some of the world's best-known writers of IF. An easily learned but flexible one-window user interface makes the cycle of writing and testing rapid and painless. Inform creates, manages, edits, indexes, tests, and even helps to publish works of IF without fuss or screen clutter. Inform itself is a free download. It produces works playable on a vast range of computers: distribute these free or for profit with no rights implications or financial obligations to the author of Inform. Convenient publishing features include help with drawing maps, producing websites, cover art, bibliographic data, walkthrough solutions and more.

"In place of traditional computer programming, the design is built by writing natural English-language sentences:

  • Martha is a woman in the Vineyard.
  • The cask is either customs sealed, liable to tax or stolen goods.
  • The prevailing wind is a direction that varies.
  • The Old Ice House overlooks the Garden.
  • A container is bursting if the total weight of things in it is greater than its breaking strain.

"Inform's power lie in its ability to describe: to lay down general rules about 'closed doors', or 'bursting containers', or 'unmarried men liked by Martha'. At its best, expressing IF in natural language results in source text which is not only quick to write, but very often works first time, and is exceptionally readable."

Check the Inform 7 Gallery tutorial.

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