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.

For my part the project progresses roughly according to following plan:

  1. Sketching the general theme, plot structure and characters.
  2. Writing more accurate character bios, rough but complete plot from start to finish and details of the fictional world where the game takes place.
  3. Plot map, similar to the puzzle map used in Escapade! (although the game is essentially linear so it's just an overview of puzzles and plot events.)
  4. Mock transcript of a complete playthrough of the game. When we start coding we'll use the mock transcript as a model with which to craft the game.
  5. Alpha testing where other people read through the mock transcript and other design documents and offer their opinions. The purpose is to find large-scale problems at this point (changes to plot or puzzles, map structure, character voices) that can be fixed before they are coded. When a project reaches beta-testing stage it's usually too late to do anything other than relatively minor changes to the game structure.
  6. Coding the game. Unlike previously announced, this will be done in Inform 7 for two reasons: the main reason is that you can't play TADS games online yet, which is a major factor if you want the barrier to entry to be as low as possible. The other reason is that I'm more familiar with I7 so I don't have to spend the relatively short implementation time learning the system. I'll set up a project at Google Code where anyone can follow how the coding progresses and contribute to the issue tracker.
  7. Beta testing. This is the phase where bugs, typos and minor design problems are ironed out.
  8. Release at the beginning of September if everything goes as planned.

Right now I've just started with #4. The schedule is such that approximately 1/3 of the time is used for preparations, 1/3 for coding and the rest 1/3 for testing. This seems like a reasonable divide, especially if the thorough planning speeds up the coding phase.

If you have any ideas regarding the project you can leave your comments here, on the wiki, or by e-mail (juhana.if @ this blog's address.) We'll be needing people during alpha and beta testing so keep that in mind if you have extra time later this month and during August.

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