Saturday, February 14, 2009

Week One Assignment

Week One is "Hello World" week, which means we're going to focus more or less strictly on getting everyone producing Z-code files, and thinking about some of the differences between static prose and IF. From a code perspective, our focus is on understanding the syntax of Inform and describing simple objects. In terms of storytelling, this means that this week is largely about creating a setting.

Here is a recommended course of action for Inform 6*:

Obtain the Inform library files, and the compiler and interpreter that are appropriate for your operating system, and compile some sample code to make sure your system is working. Read chapter 2 of the Inform Beginner's Guide ("IBG") for platform-specific tips, and a more thorough explanation of what "library files," "compiler," and "interpreter" mean.

• Read through chapters 3 and 4 of the IBG, and walk through the "Heidi" example. Change some details and compile it again. Then, create some rooms of your own. You may also wish to read chapter 3 of the Design Manual ("DM4"), especially §8, "Places and Scenery."

*For Inform 7 users: Download Inform 7 here. The IBG chapters 3 and 4 mentioned above roughly correspond to the first parts of Chapters 2 and 3 of the I7 Manual that comes with your download.

• Read §51 of the DM4, about the room description, and possibly also Em Short's thoughts on prose and IF.

If you have never touched code before:
Create a small world of a few rooms, each containing several items. Use at least three of the library attributes (such as "light" "container" or "clothing").

If you have coded Inform before:
Your basic requirements are the same, but I'm expecting much more out of you in terms of story. Remember that, unlike in static prose, the story may be discovered in many different ways. Attributes like "concealed" and "container" can help the story reveal itself over the course of the player's exploration, or object descriptions may prompt other objects. You may also use a daemon (§20 in the DM4) to change the descriptions of objects over time, or random numbers (§1.14) and a switch statement (§1.9) to vary description text.

A classic example of a story told somewhat like this is "Aisle", in which the player character is revealed through descriptions of his surroundings. I also recently enjoyed "A Day for Fresh Sushi," which, while it also has a puzzle/winnable element, establishes the player character and her girlfriend largely through object descriptions. And it was written in two hours, so that should give you some hope. There are many more such games — feel free to leave a comment here if you have some examples in mind.

If you are somewhere in between:
Well, give me something in between. Remember, the goal is to become comfortable with Inform and interactive storytelling. (Actually, that is the goal of IF Month in general.)

A final note: the forum has a section for technical questions. I can't personally guarantee you an answer, but if we work together, I'm sure most questions will get answered.

Submission information will be posted closer to the deadline. You have one week. Go.

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