Monday, July 07, 2008

Inform - first lesson learned

As a programming language inform is an excelent tool for writing fiction. Take the built in 'What not to wear' example. On the one hand it shows how far the language can be pushed. On the other I haven't seen code this contorted since reading a book about Visual Basic 6.

Examples like this really show how much Inform is not natural language.
To be honest I still can't understand how the damn thing works. Getting it requires a much deeper understanding of Inform Grammer then I currently possess. Here Lies the nub. Inform makes simple things simple, and allows you to write interactive fiction. But like most special purpose tools it makes hard things harder.

From a language point of view we have conditionals, looping constructs and an object hierarchy. We can also construct data tables and lists. All in all we have a language which is not only Turing complete, but as feature rich as general purpose languages like Java. The problem, form a programming perspective, is that we have a syntax which can be more cryptic then Perl!

The short answer; If Clothing is not a central focus of your game; ie your character is not a catwalk model, then don't implement a generic clothing system. Changing a characters description when they put on a Jacket, or a Has mat suit is so much easier, and for most games is all that is required.

The other problem with overloading your games with generic systems is that most will be published as Z-code files, and this places some major limitations of executable size. Recent posts I've seen on suggest that even the z8 standard has trouble reaching novel length (about 50,000 words) and that is without including bucket loads of extra real world simulation rules.

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