April 2015 Update

I’ve not given an update recently, though not for lack of doing anything.  The last few months have been busy with IF work, though a lot of it has been done with developer tools and less with actually writing an works of Interactive Fiction.

When I last did an update (way back in July), I mentioned that I was part of team that was investigating some other game development areas, mostly surrounding Unity.  Well nothing came of that other than some interesting experiments.   However, one member of the team has dipped his toes into the IF world in some interesting ways which I’ll come back to.

Trizbort

As most of you may have figured out, I’ve taken up the task of updating Trizbort.  This has been a lot of fun tackling this and I think I’ve been able to add some nice features and fix some bugs.  I’ve had some great help from Andrew Schultz (http://drdanstreetmentioner.blogspot.com/) who has been not only been doing a great job of testing Trizbort as I release beta versions, but also has been instrumental in coming up with features to add.  He has been updating the help files for Trizbort as well and keeping up with all the changes.  He’s also done a great job of “marketing” Trizbort by releasing some maps utilizing the new features.  Thanks Andrew for everything!

Other Tools

Some other tools are in the works that I’m hoping to to get some progress on in the near future include:

  • A Unity3d tool that will read in Trizbort files and generate a 3d map.  Still in the early planning stages with the fellow I mentioned early that was part of my development team from last summer.
  • A tool I’ve been calling Chimera that will be a tool similar to Grotesque, which is a great tool but might be somewhat intimidating for a novice to install and get running.  I’m hoping to make it easier to install and use as well as adding features.  Still very much in the beginning

Interactive Fiction

Of course I’ve got a few things in the works in this front as well.  I still want to finish my IntroComp piece from last year, Hornet’s Nest.  I’ve done some work on it since the competition, but still need to take it to completion.

I’ve also signed up to participate in ShuffleComp2, and having received my song list this past Friday, I’ve begun to plan out this piece.

I’ve of course, like I suspect many others, have a half-dozen or so pieces in varying degrees of completion that may or not ever see the light of day outside of my little world.

Well back to work.   Go north my friends!

 

July 2014 – Update

Where did the summer go, kids are getting ready to go back to school, football season is upon us (for anyone readying this not familiar, American high school football is huge in the section of northeast Ohio I’m at….often drawing more fans and played in bigger stadiums than some area universities.) I’ve been working on a bunch of different projects, probably should narrow down and focus.

I’ve got an interesting idea for a new work that as an interesting mechanic in it which I’m vetting through the technical details now. This will be an Inform project so working through some areas there I’ve not tackled before. The story itself is a bit more complex than others I’ve done, so kind of wondering if I have the writing chops for that or not.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m part of a small team that have been investigating doing other type of games as well. We’ve all done graphical games in the past, but none of us have released anything or really finished anything to a degree where it was truly playable. We’ve begun to play with the Unity3D engine and I must say, I’m quite impressed. In really just a few hours (maybe 10 or so spread out over a week), I’ve managed to implement a pretty decent Asteroids remake with quite a few extras. The true test was when my 9 and 13 year old boys say and played it for over an hour this weekend and were striving to beat each others high score.

I know that’s not necessarily IF related, but looking down the path of creating something like King’s Quest next. Nothing revolutionary, but I think it would be fun to do. I won’t be giving up the pure parser pieces as their is something special, pure and clean about the them that you can’t get anywhere else.

I hope to have more to talk about next month once I’m free to talk about a few things that I can’t now, but for now……go north my friends.

Middle of Summer Update

Well here we are, nearing the middle of July already and plenty of stuff going on.  As many are, I’m working to finish up my entry for IntroComp…finish up is an interesting way to put it since the point is it’s not a finished game…but I’m trying to polish up what I have. Working hard as I have less than a week before the deadline for submission.  I have to say, I have a great group of beta-testers for this.  I’ve learned more about writing and putting together a good game from this group of guys and gals over the last couple weeks with ShuffleComp and this entry, than I couldn’t learned on my own.  All of these testers are IF developers themselves whom are part of my IF writing group that I’ve mentioned before.   My takeaway from this, is surround yourself with good people to bounce ideas off of and to help test your works.  Not only will you learn, grow and create better works, but you’ll have made some virtual friendships with people from around the world and all different walks of life.

Speaking of ShuffleComp, I’ve released an update to my entry, White Houses.  This update has some minor bug fixes and one major one that a buddy of mine found that is kind of embarrassing and humorous at the same time.  No one else reported it so perhaps no one else noticed it.  I’m working on another release with some more features, expanded back-story and hopefully clean up some of the ambiguous parts of the story.  It’s been put on hold while I finish up my IntroComp entry, but hope to get on that next week.

I also opened up my source repository to White Houses.  So if you feel the inkling to look at some code or to see where I’m at in the next update, you can now.  I hope to move more of my code for other works there and to open it up to the public.

So what’s on tap for the rest of the summer?  Well, I obviously want to continue work on my entry for IntroComp.  I want to put together another release of White Houses as mentioned.  Maybe I’ll even revive some changes I had planned another release of Jack, my EctoComp entry from last year.  I’m also part of a small team of developers that are working on some non-IF games.  That has been taking up a large portion of my free time the last week or so as I’m pretty excited about that.  More to come on that later.

Anyway, back to work…..as always, Go North my friends.

May 2014 – Update

Yes, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted but a lot has been going on since last time, so with out further ado, let me dive right in.

Last time, I talked about entering Shufflecomp…..and I managed to do just that.  I can’t talk much about my entry as we’re still in the anonymous time period, but I can say that I had fun creating my entry…I also got a ton of feedback from my beta testers (mostly from my private IF groups), whom I greatly respect their work and their advice.  I was excited about some that I’ve been in contact with and I can say I’ve learned a ton in the process. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a tester for some of those same people that tested mine.  Again what a joy to be a part of something written by some of these people I respect greatly.

As soon as that was submitted, IntroComp was announced.  I had completely forgotten about it, but since I’m in the authoring mood, I’ve started working on an idea that has been percolating in my head for a few months that might fit the bill for this contest.  I think it’s a fun little game that can be expanded into a larger game, but really lends itself well to being built in pieces which will work nicely within the spirit of IntroComp.  Work has been started and moving right along there.

Looking further ahead, I’ve got two WIPs that are far enough along that I could perhaps push over the summer and get one ready for IFComp.  Will I manage to do that, not sure yet, nor ready to commit to that, but it is always a possibility.

Other big news is of course the release of the latest Inform 7 (GL02).  While I held off a few days after release to make sure I could get my ShuffleComp entry out, I’ve been working with it for about a week and I can say I really like it.  I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into a lot of the new features yet, but I can see the improvements made will be well received.  After an initial round of, “Oh crap, none of my stuff compiles and I’m not sure why,” I’ve gotten all my WIPs working just fine with a few minor adjustments.  And once I had those adjustments made, they were really easy to propagate to my other works and extensions that I use.  I’m still looking forward to some of the UI improvements that are in the Mac version and haven’t been moved to Windows yet, but they will come soon enough.

I’ve got some article ideas that I still want to write, just have to make time to do so.  I’m also developing plans to present to our local school district to try and introduce programming to youngsters.  One of the ways I’m working on is to introduce them to IF using Inform 7 as a fun way to think logically while planning, take the plan and create something all the while telling an interesting story.  I know I’m not the first to have done this, but it’s been an interesting thought process to come up with creative ways to reach the kids.

Well that’s all for now.  As always, Go North my friends.

 

 

February 2014 – IF Update

I suppose I should do a February update before it’s March.  Well we’ve been dealing with a cold and snowy winter here in the northern US.  You’d think that would give me all kinds of time to do some coding.  Well I have been coding, but not much of anything anyone reading this would be interested in.  All work related stuff, and man have we been busy.  Good for the old wallet, but not much help with the free time.

In fact, I’ve fallen out of the community a bit, not kept up with the goings on.  Oh I’ve poked my head in now and again on the forums, looked on IFDB to see if anything interesting popped up and of course I’ve stayed a little more active on our private Google+ IF writing group that Marshall created.  The writing group, as Marshall stated in his post, has been invaluable to me in learning so much, even though I’ve not been writing much.

That brings me to my main point to this update.  I’ve not written much in the last month and a half.  I’ve tinkered with my WIPs a few times and added some pieces and fixed some bugs, but I’ve just not felt too creative.  I have however, read as much as I could, learning as much as I can.  Keeping up with what Emily and Zarf and all the others have been doing.  Reading the forums and seeing the problems that have come up and the solutions that were found.  I’ve tried to contribute when I could, but not as much as I would have liked.

I hope to get back working on some IF in March.  The muse has not been kind to me and as I sit here thinking about my WIPs, I don’t know what to do next with them.  I might need to start something small and fresh just to get the juices flowing again.  I’m looking at getting into the ShuffleComp that is being talked about on the forums….something like this would be the perfect vehicle to get me back on track.  I think that’s why I like these smaller comps.  They are typically pretty focused and in this case some guidance on the story will be helpful.  In fact, just writing about it on here is getting me excited to get started.  Comp is still in the planning phases so watch the forum for updates and I’ll try to announce something here, especially if I do end up participating.

Well that’s been my new year so far….a whole bunch of nothing.  Never gonna get my game done for IFComp 2014 at this pace.

As always, Go north my friends!

January 2014 – IF Update

A new year is upon us and I feel like reflecting back a bit on how 2013 has treated me (at least in how it applies to the world of IF).  My history with IF goes way back to the early 80’s when I discovered the Scott Adams adventures on my Vic-20, then progressing onto the joys of Infocom in the mid 80’s.  I even tried to write a few back then using Basic or whatever language I was into at the time.  It seems that as I learned each new programming language (as I progressed to becoming a software developer by trade), I tried to implement some sort of adventure game and parser.  The stuff just fascinated me.

Jump forward to the early 2000’s and I went looking for some of the old adventures I used to know, and lo and behold I find that a community has been built up where people actually were writing new ones.  I was so excited…. I went and downloaded the latest group of games from the current IFComp and played through them, I probably even voted.  I downloaded Inform 6 and began to learn and write my own.  Life got in the way as I was trying to get my fledgling consulting business off the ground (and we were having our 3rd and 4th children) and again, they faded from memory.

Then jump to late July of 2013.  On vacation for a week, I’m sitting in the air-conditioning trying to keep cool, and I decided to see if the IFComp was still going on.  Sure enough, it was.  I downloaded some more games, discovered IFDB, and was in heaven.  Thought I’d give writing games another try and discovered that Inform 7 had been released (years prior obviously) and was pretty impressed….impressed enough that I went on to spend the better part of a week, all of my free time, learning and writing.  I was finally hooked.

I start this blog, discover the forums, meet some people and then Marshal Tenner Winter invites me to join the private Google plus group, The Interactive Fiction Faction.  Here I get to meet some pretty impressive people, a few that are newbies IF authors like myself, and others that are veterans.   I’ve learned, I’ve participated and I think I’ve even contributed some good information at times.  All the while, learning and growing in the community.

So what has this all lead me to accomplish in 2013.  Well beyond learning a lot and hopefully sharing some of what I’ve learned through my posts here on the blog and in the forums, I’ve managed to release my first work, Jack, for the 2013 EctoComp.  It finished middle of the pack and received some positive feedback, so I was greatly pleased with that.

December Accomplishments

So what did I accomplish in December?  I had every intention of release a post-comp version in December, but my creativity and momentum on that particular work, slowed down drastically so it has been put on the back burner for now.  I began work on an idea for the recently completed New Years mini-comp, but failed to finish that.  I made some progress on two unannounced and only partially completed pieces that I had every intention of entering into the Spring Thing, but that’s not going happen.  So to answer that question of my accomplishments in December, I can say, NOT MUCH.

Plans for 2014

Well despite my creative pit I fell into the last month of 2013, I have every intention of making 2014 the year I release more than one small mini game.  Perhaps I’ll push the big works off until the IFComp for 2014 (congrats to Jason McIntosh on his newly announced role as organizer), but I still will try to much more productive and perhaps release a work or two outside of any comp.  What will I do different?  Well I plan to give myself deadlines, just like I do in my real life job.  Deadlines that need to be met and work that needs to be done.  Perhaps with a bit more organization, I can push through my less-than creative times and get some crap done.  Wish me luck.

Well I’m hoping everyone has a great 2014 and I’m looking forward to learning more and more, meeting new people and sharing what I’ve learned to help others.  I look forward to releasing some new games and playing all the great releases I’m sure will come from around the community.

In the spirit of the frigid cold we are feeling her in northeast Ohio this January, I’ll finish this post with “Go south” my friends!

December 2013 IF Update

I can’t hardly believe it’s December already.  November was a busy month for me.  Work was really keeping me busy and I don’t see that slowing down a whole lot.   Not as much time on personal project that I would have liked to have spent, but I did manage to make some progress.

At the beginning of the month, having just submitted my work (Jack) to EctoComp, I was anxiously awaiting feedback.   I had some say it was actually a decent work considering the time limit.  Despite perhaps some grammatical issues, it was fairly well implemented for a first release.  Others were turned off by the overt violence that begins to happen half-way through the game and by the lack of an ending.  So I received a mixed bag of feedback, but it was all good advice that I was able to internalize and use to make a future release better and to consider in future works.

It also gave me an incentive to start on expanding and making the work better.  I’ve gone into some of this in my postmortem that I did on the game, but I’ve spent part of the month working on finishing it up and fleshing out the back-story more.  It actually evolved beyond what my initial ideas were so it’s going to take a bit longer to finish it up for a post-comp release.  Also some of you that didn’t like the violence, well….I’m trying to make alternatives paths through the game that are less violent, but the back-story has taken a turn and become a bit dark.  It seems to work in my head, but we shall see how others like it.  Maybe by the end of the year, I’ll put out a release.

Another thing that has begun to take my attention away from Jack, is the New Years comp that was just announced.  I’ve got a few ideas for that, that we’ll see if I can expand into something doable by it’s deadline.

And of course, there’s also the Spring Thing, which I really wanted to to enter, but I’ve not got much done, so I’m not sure I’ll meet that deadline.  I’ve got one work that is about 50% done, but just not sure if I’ll find the time (or want to make the time) to finish that up.

I must say that over the last few months that I’ve gotten back into the IF scene, I’ve met some great people that have helped me along quite a bit.  I know that community support is great and everyone for the most part, whether they criticize or praise your work, they do so in the effort to make it better.

I’m hoping to be able to give back to the community in some way through this blog (as well as hopefully releasing some new games).    I’ve got a few ideas for some series of articles here, that I think might benefit the programming community (at least in regards to Inform 7  and game design) at large as well as myself.  I might kick the idea around with a few individuals first to see if it’s something that would be helpful or not before going into any great detail here.

Well, that was my November and hoping for a productive December.  So go north my friends!