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.

4 thoughts on “Introducing Vorple

  1. I want the source code now! :D

    I've been planning for a long time to make a new web-friendly IO system, so maybe this will fit perfectly!

  2. RickRoll'D is dancing because he just lost the game.

    ;-)

    I am looking forward to seeing Vorpal. Can't be there for the demo, but look forward to examples being posted online.

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