Messing with Inform7 today

Thinking about this because I started showing Inform7 to my son. Inform7 is very elegant game programming language and interactive development environment. I recommend it! I think he will be teaching me some Unity in return…

Years ago I did a lot of coding for a MUD, a text based multiplayer interactive fiction game. After playing lots of MUDs, MUSHes and MOOs through the 90s I am not quite sure when I started coding but seems like late 90s, mostly for a MUD called Arcane Nites. It was fun being an “immortal”, helping new players and acting as a game moderator to resolve disputes and stop abusive or spammy behavior, often along with another immortal, an enormous macho giant named Stomp, who I only later realized was a woman older than me, old enough to be a grandma. Also later I heard from players who were like, 12 year olds at the time (which explains the frequent need for moderation). (Hi, y’all!)
In fact, I wrote a lot of code while pregnant or while actually wearing my son in a front carrier. Gaming is truly in his blood!
I remember working on some kind of in-game messaging or bulletin board system; little projects like expanding the “socials”, actions you could take in game, and having great time writing them to look properly grammatical depending on whether you were doing the action, seeing the action, or experiencing the action on yourself. I wrote code to made liquid containers behave properly with different liquids, and I think I got obsessed for a while with adding other physical properties to objects but don’t remember much of that.
But, the main fun of MUDs for me was writing new areas of the game. I’ve talked about this before but I wrote one based on the Chinese classic, Hong Lou Meng, translated a few different ways, “Story of the Stone” or “Dream of the Red Chamber” or “Dream of Red Mansions”. I had three different translations of it, drawing up elaborate character lists, geneologies, and so on to keep track of the different names of characters across the translations. In my version, you could walk around a small part of the town and the two houses of the Jia (or Chia) clan and the extensive gardens behind the houses. There were supernatural elements – you could end up in realm of the Stone itself, and there was also a dreamlike, kind of racy cave sequence where you traveled in time, or something, and ended up finding Hsi-men Ching and Golden Lotus from Jin Ping Mei.

Anyway, today I went looking for these files and started converting my version of the Battle of Kurukshetra from the Mahabharata into Inform7. I don’t have a good key to the old game data files so I am having to figure out a lot of weird data! It’s fun. If I can do this successfully then I’ll put the areas up as standalone playable interactive fiction. Since in the MUDs they were written for, the “point” was not just to explore, but to kill everything and loot its corpse, taking equipment and wearing it, and so on, I will have to either figure out some different experience (perhaps a more wholesome one of puzzle or mystery solving) or write a battle system for Inform7. Or, I may just release them as areas to wander and explore. Most of the point was absorbing the atmosphere, really.

3 thoughts on “Messing with Inform7 today

    1. I don’t think it is super deep, but it sets the scene of the battle, with a Pandava palace and camp, a Kuru camp on the hill of Kurukshetra, and the battlefield. Overhead there are a bunch of gods in cloud chariots (if you notice how to get up there) And, I made the main characters in the battle with their associated special gear, flags, etc. Like, Yudisthira is carrying dharma and some unlucky dice. Since this was in a MUD context the “point” was to kill every NPC you encounter for the XP, loot their equipment, and find out what special powers the equipment has to see if you want to wear it or use it. Associating particular stats and qualities to the equipment was part of the fun subtlety of the area, but that will likely be lost in this port.

      I had some worries about it being disrespectful in general to kill a bunch of gods in-game, and, at the time, went with making them incredible bad-asses that it took a party of like, 10 experienced players to go up against.

      I also was writing areas about books because i thought they would someday resonate with the kids playing when they read the books, they’d have this strange ingrained knowledge of some of the characters and scenes. This, the Inferno, and Story of the Stone though that is less likely to be familiar to a non-Chinese reader. I may need to just rewrite the Inferno because it was so much fun to describe (and then walk through) the different levels of Hell! I had originally intended to write it as Doom levels…. !

      Anyway, I don’t want to make the new version about battle, so I’ll be thinking about how to make this area playable in a different way.

    2. Anyway, here it is, walkable and you can look at the characters to see what they are wearing. There is no real “game” but it might be fun to read and roam around in. I think you should be able to download Inform7 and then clone the above repo and it will run.

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