Inform 7: Day 2


So I’ve been playing with Inform 7 now for a few days. I will say one thing, the level of frustration I’ve achieved is probably only matched by the last time I was trying to learn code (JavaScript). I consider this to be a good thing, if only because it means that it’s a frustration that I’m sure to encounter time and time again as I learn other languages.

Anyhow, frustration aside, I’ve learned a few new things about the program. Notably, I’ve learned a lot more about how to create locations and how to situate them in your world. For example, it’s one thing to say “The Mall is north of the Bank.” and it’s an entirely different thing to say “The Bank is south of the Mall. North of the mall is nowhere.” Things like this keep popping up as completely illogical but somehow they still serve a purpose. In this case, if I move from the Mall to the Bank, I won’t be able to move back up to the Mall from the Bank. The reason that’s important is if you’re, say, falling into a hole or a multi-dimensional wormhole (those only go one way, right?).

I’ve been working on a game where you find out that your best friend is dead, then you get kidnapped and brought to laboratory where you have to escape while hopefully finding clues to your friend’s death (the kidnapper’s talk openly about kidnapping your friend). This is proving to be troubling, especially because I told myself at the beginning that I was basically going to abandon reading the manual in favour of just referencing it when I need it. This is hard. Much harder, I’m finding, than just going through the manual page by page. I don’t always “get” the manual, because it uses a lot of random examples (instead of just building off of one, a major oversight in my opinion) and, frankly, it’s a little dense, especially since I don’t always have a lot of time to sit down and really involve myself in reading it.

The inevitable problem with doing things the way I’ve been doing it–namely, reading some manual, coding some of my game, searching the manual, reading more than I need to, going back to coding–feels very stop-start-stop-start to me. Maybe there is no “right” way of doing it. In school, we were always forced to “learn, then do, then learn, then do,” which seemed to work pretty well, but somehow this doesn’t feel the same. Maybe I need someone standing over my shoulder hovering a big red “F” in front of me as I work.

All things considered, though, I’m having a good time. I created the basic storyline in my word processor which was a lot of fun. I’m still working out the details of how the player gets out of the laboratory, but all in due time. The fun part is dropping hints about how the player’s friend was killed. I’ve got all kinds of ideas: the obvious ones, like reading scraps of notes and overhearing conversations, as well as some more interesting ones, like investigating her facebook page and finding mysterious clues in the laboratory’s flasks and petri dishes. THAT’S the fun part. The coding is just a tool to achieve that, something I have to keep reminding myself of.

Speaking of word processors, I’ve been writing all my code in there then just pasting it to Inform, largely because I’m more familiar with the keyboard shortcuts than I am with Inform’s. So far, there haven’t been any problems except that Inform handily colour-codes some things. “If” statements, comments, actual returned text: all those things get their own colour, something I’ll probably find more handy than the shortcuts in Writer. Oh well, this works for me for the time being.

Hope everyone else’s learning adventures are going well!

UPDATE: @type_ins on twitter has just informed me of a great site called This (appears to be) a great forum all about interactive fiction writing and there’s even a board just for Inform 6 and 7!

  1. Mark said:

    Keep coding sir. Innform was very tricky to learn at first and I’m an old school programmer from the 80’s. The manual and a book by Aaron Reed are your best bets. Check out Jim Aiken’s Inform Handbook. It is very good.


    • Cool, I just downloaded the Inform Handbook and it looks a lot more accessible than the manual that they include with the software.

      Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for reading!


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