Yes, I’m still wrestling with fire, but while doing so I came to an interesting re-discovery. While I’ve known for some time the Shapir-Worf hypothesis (shortly, that our words color our perception of the world), I was never struck by how tricky a problem this is in IF, until now. Take for instance the verbs we use to handle fire.
We extinguish lit items. We light some items, and we burn others. For instance, you light a candle, but you burn garbage. You don’t light garbage and you don’t burn a candle, but you both burn and light paper. Yet, the “Grammar.h” file in the Inform 6 library makes ‘burn’ and ‘light’ synonyms. Even Emily Short’s extension ExpertGrammar.h doesn’t challenge this. (The latter was based on extensive playtesting, so I’m hesitant to contradict it.)
Is it assuming too much about the player character to make burn and light follow our ordinary conventions? By so doing, I’m excluding the rough-and-tumble gritty film noir-ish characters who might use the two interchangably, or the tough Cockney seahands who might do the same. However, if I willingly exclude such characters as outlying cases, then I hit another problem.
Burning items implies finality, as the character no longer cares what happens to the item. “Burn them all!”, “Burn the whole place down!”, and similar sentiments seem to follow the verb around like strays seeking food. It would make emotional sense to have burn be a final act, utterly destroying the object in one turn. However, that runs at cross-purposes to a well-defined and consistent world, where whether something is burned or lit, it still takes the same amount of time to be consumed. Further, it might confuse the player when the item is destroyed through a burn (especially an item that would take a long time to fully combust) and time for the rest of the game world only advances one turn.
Perhaps it would be best to have burn be only an angrier version of light that does not involve any time dilation, but separate it from light in other ways. For instance, items which are meant to be lit are items with wicks which often can be held or endure, such as candles and censers. Although fireworks do not endure, they have wicks, and can be thought of as candles that you cannot hold and cannot be physically near. You don’t burn wick-ed items. (Har, har. har). Items that are burned, therefore, are items that when fire is applied to them, either radically transform the object, usually by destroying or damaging it. I suppose you could apply fire to magic items to change them for the better, however, but one thing is sure — you wouldn’t light them.
So with all this rumination, I think there are solid differences between light and burn. Let’s recap. Light is for objects meant to be lit such as censers, fireworks, and candles; burn applies to all other flammable object which can be either transmuted or destroyed by fire. Only in the case of meant to be lit objects are light and burn synonyms. Otherwise, you cannot burn an object that you are holding.
I think I’ve just entered the IF version of Mordor, where little lights mark all the IF developers who died attempting to make it through this problem. Their uneasy spirits linger on in old threads found only through searching Google groups. So what is all this about? I have found fire, and have discovered one thing. Fire hurts.
Inform 6 is a great programming language, and I mean that with no sense of understatement or backhanded mockery. I enjoy it. However, it does not handle fire very well. Due to the disruptive nature of fire, though, I doubt that any programming language could implement it at all well.
Fire can change the properties of any given object in many ways, depending on the state of the object, the intensity of the fire, and the proximity of the object to the fire. Furthermore, it can utterly transmute the object from existence to dust, and do the same for NPCs and the player.
In a moment of utter design revelation, I managed to cut out the necessity for an exhaustible light source from Seasons. However, there is still at least one fire in the game, and with that one fire, comes all the problems with lighting, burning, flammability, and so forth. I’m not obsessive, but I recognize that saying “You can’t burn that!” to something that’s obviously capable of being burned will send players into spasmodic fits of Tourette’s syndrome. So I have to design classes for flammable objects, handle burn and light (which I’ve decided are not the same), extinguishing, and the whole kit and caboodle.
I’m not thrilled by all this, but I cannot remove the fires from the game, so onward into IF Mordor I go. I’ll release my framework as “fire.h” when this is all said and done, even though I know it’ll never make it to the level of official extension. Don’t ask me to elaborate on that one. Just don’t. It’ll be on intaligo.com, though, where all my offerings live.
I’ll admit that I’m not the most ordered when it comes to constructing my games, and by construction, I mean the phase that follows design. My designs are well-ordered: I know about how many rooms, the theme(s), the style, the main character, the technology. Construction, however, results from random fixations. Today I choose to work on this piece, then tomorrow that piece, then the third day oh wait I left something out in piece one, and then it’s on to piece four. Stitch this together with oodles of alpha testing and you have my process, such as it is.
I’d like to think that this results in a well-tested game, but that wasn’t so the first time around. Eventually, like with works of creative writing, I became so utterly tired of the whole thing that I let it go before its time had come. It’s more of a way of preventing boredom from setting in, although there may be some quixotic fear of commitment or lack of discipline in the mix, too. I’m afraid of making my art feel too much like actual work, so I zip from here to there and cobble this or nail together that.
All of that is to say I don’t have a definite grasp on where Seasons is, besides a rough percentage complete. I last incremented the version number some months ago, even though the game has been polished immeasurably since then and has many fewer missing pieces. Without giving away too much, multiple layouts in Gwindows are working and I’ve managed to make Gwindows play nicely with OrLib. (No, you cannot know my incantations yet!)
The downside to this mode of development is that I often work for days or weeks without feeling that I’m accomplishing much. The question haunts me: “Does setting smaller goals and achieving them make constructing the game feel too much like work?” Tough one, that.
Anyhow, I think I’m right around the halfway mark.
In a single word, whatever. That’s how I feel about the results. There were a buttload of games (which was good), but that superabundance made me feel that I couldn’t vote unless I had played most of them. Such a daunting task got thrown on the old back burner, which means I didn’t get around to voting. So yes, take this post with a grain of salt.
Lost Pig winning nearly every category disappoints me. I’m not really sure what people see in impossible puzzles, loquacious but unhelpful NPCs, and claustrophobic environs. (Gentlemen, start your psychoanalysis!) I’m confused by people who claimed that the game was easy. How in the heck do you figure that one? The other games I don’t have any experience with (except one which I also disliked), but the number of unfamiliar authors was refreshing.
It seems that the IF community is moving in the direction of blogs, and I’ve been blogging for quite some time over here, so I figured why not toss my hat into the ring? I’ve watched the IF scene with a curious detachment for some time, posting only sparingly on RGIF and RAIF, but I’ve generally kept my opinions to myself. No more. Here’s where I unload on issues, attitudes, and directions that plague IF, as well as do a little progress report on my own projects.
In a scene where “the old ones” and their hangers-on rule the roost, in a scene where arrogance and self-justification run amok, in a scene where high-falutin’ psuedo-intelligence is misinterpreted as profundity, and in a scene where true improvement is rarely discussed, come I, the blackest of black sheep.
Yes, I have a few things to say and I’m going to say them.