Trizbort 1.5.8.9 – June Release

Time for another Trizbort release.  Version 1.5.8.9 is out and available for download.  This releases adds a few new features that I think are pretty handy and fixes a few issues with the automapper (thanks for Marshall Tenner Winter for asking me to beta test his WIP which helped me find these few issues with it.)

  • Form to show some basic map statistics. We can expand no this in the future.
  • Swap room names with Ctrl+W
  • Swap room formats/fills with Shift+W
  • Swap room regions with Alt+W
  • Automapper does a bit better job of ignoring the game title.
  • Automapper handles room names that end in paranethesis a little better.
  • Fixed the copy / paste which was broken in some cases.
  • Setting a connection to plain (P), now sets the color back to default and removes the middle text if any.
  • Added some special select commands under Edit->Select Special. Quickly allows the user to select special items (all rooms with objects for example).

As always, send me any issues that you may find or forward me on any feature requests you may have.

 

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Trizbort 1.5.7.1 Released

Trizbort1571I released today another version of Trizbort (1.5.7.1).  This version focused mainly on fixing some bugs and making the app a bit more user friendly for keyboard users.  There were a few new features that I think are pretty nifty.

As always you can download the latest bits at http://bit.ly/trizbortjl

If you are interested in seeing or playing with some code, you can find that on GitHub at http://bit.ly/TrizbortSource

Bug Fixes

First with the bugs.  I thank everyone that made suggestions and reported bugs as they were much appreciated and made my job much easier.

Some of the highlights of things fixed:

  • Made the naming of regions a bit more robust as the user could enter some characters that would either break the save file or would break Inform if exported to code.
  • I also made the region setup form a bit more robust as there were a few ways to you could break the app if you tried hard enough.
  • I tried to clean up the exporting to Inform7 by making sure the app wouldn’t generate bad I7 code.  Some of these changes naturally fall through to I6 and TADS3, but I still need to do some work there as I’m not as familiar with those languages.
  • SmartSave better handles an unsaved Trizbort file better.
New features

As I have a long list of suggested feature ideas, I want to try to include some of those with each release (new features are usually more fun to play with than fixed bugs anyway)

Some highlights:

  • Selected rooms and connections are now much more noticeable and it doesn’t really interfere with the coloring of regions.
  • New keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-Shift-A) to select all rooms of a particular region (I’ll add a menu item later for you mouse users).  Select one room of the region you are interested in and press Ctrl-Shift-A and viola that region is selected.
  • Ctrl-Alt-Arrow to resize selected room.  That keystroke is pretty standard to handle resizing so I wanted to be sure to include it.
  • Arrow keys will now move selected rooms around.  Previously the arrow keys always moved the map, now if you have rooms selected it will move the rooms instead.  Nothing selected still moves the map as before.
  • Added some more context menu items and shortcut keys for quick access.

 

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.

EctoComp 2013 – Initial Observations

This morning I’ve played through over half of the EctoComp 2013 entries and I wanted to share some of my initial observations on the competition.  

*** Full Disclosure: I am an author of one of the games in the competition ***

Some observations on the games themselves

Being that this is a speed-IF competition, the games are of course very short.  Some are more of the one or two room varieties with a handful of puzzles or tasks….there are a few with relatively expansive maps, though the interaction and descriptions in each are necessarily small.  

For the most part, despite the small size of the games and the short time to write them,  they are pretty high quality games.  Sure there are some grammar issues and some unimplemented objects and most need more atmospheric text (mine included in all of those statements), but most have decent stories and concepts that I feel if expanded upon outside of the three hour window, could actually become pretty great games.  I myself have already begun work on a second release of my game based on some feedback I’ve received already as well as my own notes of things I just ran out of time to implement.

Out of the 24 entries, there appears to be 16 entries in Inform  and one Hugo….about 71% of the games are parser games….which is interesting as by contrast if you look at the IFComp13 where we had 35 entries, only 13 (37%) appear to be the traditional parser style.  I find this interesting especially given the conversation over on the forums in regards to the slow decline of parser games in favor of the CYOA style games.  

Why the discrepancy? I suppose there are many varied and complex reasons and I don’t necessarily discount that perhaps their is a rush of new authors that are attracted to the apparent ease of creating (not interesting in a debate on the validity of my unscientific observations here, I’ll save that for the forum.)  I suppose that the author’s entering EctoComp perhaps are more plugged into the community since the competition wasn’t as well advertised, thus perhaps they have been around a bit longer and are perhaps a bit more old-school.  All just assumptions on my part, I just found it interesting to think about.

The non-parser games were actually well done as well.  Even though they are not my preferred type of game, I found that those I played were actually well done.  Again, perhaps because they are coming from more entrenched authors which lending their experience to any platform would increase the odds of putting out a decent game.

Judging

As I played them and enjoyed most of them I thought about how I would rate them (and if I even would).  Still undecided on if I send in a score sheet, but my criteria for rating is going something loosely like this with weights of the components of the score in this order:

  1. Did I enjoy it?  Was the story, the game play something I had fun despite any other flaws,  If I had fun, it will score well here.  
  2. Would I like to see more?  In other words, will I be looking for an expanded more complete release down the road.  If I want more, it will score higher.
  3. Was it well implemented?  This is hard to do in just 3 hours.  I know I have some unimplemented areas, verbs and objects in my game.  But I’d not be doing justice to the game that made the effort to squeeze in some better implementation or if they structured their text and hints so as to minimize any confusion on the part of the player.
  4. Grammar.  Yes I will include this as a very small component.  But very minor, I don’t expect in three hours to have well edited text, mine was no where near as good as I would have liked.  But I run into any glaring issues that distract from the game, then perhaps a small deduction may be in order.
  5. Extras.  I’m a sucker for extras.  I like that when a game thinks like I do and makes the extra effort to include some basic atmospheric text or an easter egg or two (if I can find them).  To me that shows the attention to detail that I like.  No deductions here if none are included, but perhaps a bonus boost if I see something extras in there.

Not very scientific, very subjective and of course this is just something I came up with to assist me in rating the games.  For more full games, like those perhaps in the IFComp, these would necessarily change weighting and there may be other criteria in there that I would include.

Anyway, I nice crop of games here in EctoComp 13.  Lots of fun and potential for the future.  This was my first release ever, though I’ve written plenty that just need finished, so I was pretty excited to have a reason to release something.  Hope everyone enjoys the games and if you feel so inclined, please vote!

Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 by Aaron Reed – A Review.

When I got back into the IF world and wanted to start authoring my ownnote-1 I voraciously scoured the internet in search of all the information I could find….and there is quite a bit between the forums, some of the leaders in the field and having many games released with source code. Having spent a few days reading all I could, I stumbled upon Aaron Reed and his blog. Not only did I see he was an accomplished IF authornote-2, but also was one of the leaders in educating others in developing with Inform 7, but also in using interactive fiction as a tool to educate on other subjects. So of course when I noticed he wrote a book, Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7, I had to order it right away.

514a8837j6L._SL160_This book is a great introduction to creating interactive fiction in Inform 7. Aaron does a fine job of easing you into creating things by introducing us to interactive fiction, familiarizing ourselves with the Inform 7 application, and begin development of a sample game that we build upon throughout the entire book.

Aaron covers most of the important areas of Inform 7 that you will use in almost every game. From the basic creation of rooms, creating things and placing them in locations and creating custom kinds and properties to making things happen with rules and actions. He also covers some more advanced logic, scenes, conversation models and character interaction. He covers things in just enough detail to understand, often presents areas where we could improve or expand on what he has shown, and gives exercises to show off what we’ve learned by customizing his central game. Again, not everything is covered, or some topics aren’t covered in great detail, but the technical side of the book gives us more than enough to get started and often leads us to learn more.

In addition to the technical side of the book, Aaron often covers aspects of story design and authoring. Everything from creating good descriptions and creating atmospheric text, to story pacing and good conversation and character interaction. Often a book or article will cover either the technical side well or the artistic side well, but rarely both. Aaron does a fine job on both and blends them together nicely.

Regardless your level of expertise with Inform 7 or with interactive fiction creation, I believe Aaron’s book gives great insights for both novices and experts alike. I still refer to it at times when I’m looking for some specific aspect I recall being covered that I’m not remembering or for inspiration on a story element. Price is reasonable and there is a Kindle version available. Well worth the cost. I hope to see more works like this from Aaron or others.

1 – Back around 2002, I played with Inform 6 and created the stereotypical first game, a layout of my house, but real life got in the way and I never went much further. Jump to 2013 and I look to see what has been going on over the last few years and I discover Inform 7. It was a natural choice for me as I was already somewhat familiar and the natural language syntax intrigued me as a programmer.
2 – See Blue Lacuna, billed as the largest work of IF ever written…but the source code is available as well. Great learning available here.