Please excuse the crudity of this model

This is the seventh and last article in the Back to the Future theme week series.

Doc Brown with power cords…I didn't have time to build it to scale or paint it.

To end the Back to the Future theme week, here's a concept of a time travel game I've toyed with on and off for the past five years. It's remarkable because the core mechanics can't be implemented in any of the existing parser IF interpreters, so the Vorple project was started just to make something that could run it.

The demo is completely artificial. It doesn't run on any game engine, only basic JavaScript that animates the elements. While viewing the demo click anywhere to trigger the next turn.

Click here for the Ripple concept demo

There are at least 6 or 7 projects in the pipeline before this one, so it's not realistically going to see the light of day in some while if ever. It also turns out that designing and implementing something like this is really hard in just about every aspect. But it's thematically appropriate, and a neat concept, so here you go.

Doc Brown pointing at an outdoor cinema movie screen that has the Ripple logo on it

This game would require you to think fourth dimensionally.

Feel free to draw inspiration from it as much as you want. Or, in other words, it would be cool if someone else made this because I just really want to play it.

This concludes the Back to the Future theme week. Thanks for reading!

Introducing Vorple

Emily Short and the comrades from People's Republic of Interactive Fiction are hosting a demo fair for user interface and NPC interaction innovations.

Screen shot of Vorple showing a demo game and a balloon tooltip pointing to the input line, instructing the player to type a command

My entry to the fair is Vorple, an interface layer to be integrated with existing web interpreters and an accompanying UI library. It would work together with Parchment, Quixe, Undum, or some other web interpreter or system that would provide the engine running the actual game.

Vorple has two main features: giving games access to JavaScript and Vorple's library, and providing ready-made functions and features that could be easily added to games. For example, an Inform 7 author could do something like this:

After examining the television:

play YouTube video "oHg5SJYRHA0".

To players it would be just like any other web interpreter, but for authors Vorple would provide means to break free from the virtual machine into what is admittedly another sandbox, but one with a lot more possibilities. Authors who want total control could insert JavaScript commands that control the user interface or add whatever JavaScript/HTML elements they wish. People who don't want to mess around with JavaScript could use the ready-made elements and functions like shown above.

The players would benefit of an independent UI layer even if the game author wouldn't use any of Vorple's features. You could use independent JavaScript widgets like notepad or (auto)mapping that would work with every game.

An interesting side effect would be that if Vorple were made to work together with Parchment and Quixe it could act as a general-purpose interpreter like Gargoyle or Zoom, making the difference between Z-machine and Glulx even more invisible to the player.

The features demonstrated at PAX will be:

  • Keeping the transcript clean: hiding error messages and UI hints the next turn, showing meta information (about, credits) in popups
  • Changing the content of previous turns. In the demo you can change temperature and speed units between metric and imperial. Doing so will change the previously displayed units as well.
  • Bubble popup hints, as seen in the screenshot
  • Linking to Twitter
  • Sending commands to the parser from the user interface, either as normal commands, silently, or as partial commands (for example clicking on the word "examine" fills the input line with that word and lets the player to add the noun)
  • Images in different layouts and popups
  • Playing videos (local videos for now because internet access at the demo event might be difficult to come by, but YouTube videos would work just as well)
  • Accessing and displaying the system time (although it's not that amazing anymore now that Glulx supports this)
  • An interactive version of the How to play IF card!
  • + more

This is just a taste of what the library will include. The best part of course is that because the user interface and the game could communicate between each other the author would be free to come up with all sorts of interesting new interfaces and game mechanics outside the standard set of features. For example I had an idea of a time travel game where travelling into the past would actually change the content of previous turns that happened in the future—this would be impossible in any of the current interpreters, but perfectly doable with Vorple.

As said Vorple will be presented at the demo fair at PAX East in Boston this Saturday starting at 8 pm. If you're around come take a look; you won't need a PAX badge. The demo will be posted online later, but I'm travelling during March so it might take a couple of weeks.

Vorple won't be out for some while as it's currently just a bunch of stuff thrown together to demonstrate the basic concept. In the meanwhile you can follow @VorpleIF on Twitter for release announcements and updates on the progress.

Still going strong

You might have heard that Neophyte from In the Company of Grues blog had to drop out from the IF Trainer project at least for a little while because of real life issues. This doesn't mean the project is dead—I'm still working on it and it's going through alpha testing right now.

If you're interested in helping or seeing how it looks like right now you can head to the alpha testing information page and take a look. The project schedule has been pushed forward about a month and I'm hoping to release something in time for PAX Prime at the beginning of September.

The IF Trainer project

As you might have heard from elsewhere, I've been asked by the author of In the Company of Grues blog to design and code a game that would be suitable to teach newcomers how to play IF. This is a pretty sweet deal because we're having the entire development process completely transparent. The development wiki is at where you can see how the game is coming along and leave your own comments.

We're aiming to release at the beginning of September, in time for PAX Prime and before IFcomp starts to avoid being overshadowed.

Continue reading "The IF Trainer project"

The TADS fatigue

I have two things to say about TADS 3: a) as a programming language it's most excellent and b) the library is huge.

TADS's learning curve is very steep at the beginning but I have a feeling that once you get a decent grasp of the language you can do advanced stuff quite easily. With Inform 7 the learning curve is almost the opposite: you can get in with no effort at all, but when you get to the advanced stuff you hit a brick wall.

This is the third time I've started trying to learn TADS. The first two times the library was just too overwhelming and I didn't get very far before just becoming tired. Now I've picked it up again and it's going better than before. While I've never had as much fun programming as I have when working with Inform, TADS is also fun but in a different way: the feeling of harnessing its raw power is what makes TADS a pleasure to work with.

Just to tame this beast I'm going to do my next project in TADS. An old acquaintance is about to return...

New year's IF under betatesting

Taleslinger organized the third New Year's speed-if event, Newer New Year's Speed IF, some weeks back (although due to many happenstances it's still a sort of ongoing event). I had an idea for a game I had been thinking about for about a year and decided to finally make it.

Apparently making speed-IFs isn't my forte because the end result was something more the size of an average IFcomp game than a speed-if. It's large enough to consider a proper game, so I'm having it tested before it's released to the general public. If you have some extra time in the next couple of weeks (the planned release is sometime in February), it would be great if you'd see the call and blurb here. I can be contacted by e-mail, juhana dot if at nitku dot net.