Sunday, May 04, 2008

Inform 7: A Down-the-nose Review

Let's be blunt. Inform 7 is precious, precious ad Latinate nauseam. It is an incomprehensibly abstruse (and spottily documented) private language written for use by three or four ivory tower academics who share a delusion, namely, that anyone still gives a damn about a genre of computer games made obsolete by Pong and Pacman, that died with the publication of Leather Goddesses of Phobos, that cremated itself on the banks of a virtual Ganges when Douglas Adams realized that his next game should be visually interesting. Nobody reads. Nobody delights in verbal pyrotechnics. The raconteur's art is deader than a zombie's hangnail, and nobody (meaning SET OF LITERATE HUMANS INTERESTED IN DERIVATIVE PYGMALIA == NIL) gives a brass pigeon dropping about some dolomite babe with issues about verbal fan dancing.

Inform 6, on the other hand, unencumbered by gold-plated cant about "natural language," is still codable, and reaches a diminishing but ever-decreasing cult of text adventure addicts who still collect this stuff, even if they never play it. Unfortunately, current versions of Inform 7 can no longer directly support story files that Inform 6 compiles with ease (and so did Inform 7, originally). If this were my shop, I'd be telling some of these champagne-sipping prima donnas to install their product on a virgin machine and try to run it. Every new program costs a million bucks, and $900,000 of that is Quality Assurance.

That said, I could really wish Inform 7 actually worked as advertised, that it had a manual far less self-congratulatory about theory (deductive gorgonzola) and far more forthcomingly modest about actual example (inductive like real language acquisition), and that it had a list of fully developed projects somewhere up at the top of the "Look At Me" headers. (Of course, you don't see that, because it's a shock; Inform 7 syntax is both idiosyncratic and unnatural — even worse than Applescript, if that's possible.)

Whatever, I do wish it were finished, because I've got a really great idea that I've been working on for several years...



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