The Island Of The Nightmare Maggots
July 30, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

The Island Of The Nightmare Maggots
I've started work on my first Interactive Fiction. It is called: Island Of The Nightmare Maggots!

Pursuant to some of the excellent responses to my AskMe question here, I downloaded Inform 7 and have started work on my first Interactive Fiction. I spent basically an entire day creating what is essentially a single room with not very much happening in it except a couple of different ways to die (they say "Start with a bang!", after all).

Nevertheless this will be an ongoing thing, I feel, because I never realised before how downright addictive programming (I use the term loosely and many will sneer, but Inform is a type of programming language) can be, and it's nice to be in complete control of something, unlike a comic book, which relies on a lot of other people. This actually started off as an EC-style comic book script that I was working on and lost interest in, but thought might be good as a basis for this IF.

So. The main link goes to a Parchment interpretation of the zblorb file as hosted on Google Sites. You should be able to click and load it right away in any browser, and have a bit of a play around. I think I have made one particular aspect of it a little too difficult but for those that care, the hint is that a new verb has been introduced and it has to do with your interaction with a very specific noun that is mentioned several times after you get out of the water.

I'd love for people to muck about with it and be annoyed by it, however, and will be uploading new versions regularly, with announcements here. Below, I've also included a link to the standalone z-machine file, for those that wish to download it, as well as the source code in the form of a txt file. The source code won't be of any interest to most but I am ideally hoping that a kickass IF writer and/or Inform 7 guru will stumble across this and have a look, to tell me what I'm doing wrong, so I can tidy it all up and make it tighter and cleaner.

That's it for now. Enjoy your very brief adventures on...THE ISLAND OF THE NIGHTMARE MAGGOTS!

zblorb file (immediate download)
txt source file (immediate download)
Role: creator
posted by tumid dahlia (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I think yell and help should be recognized verbs. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?
posted by Jorus at 6:31 AM on July 31, 2011

Awesome! I've tried my hand at programming IF, but ended up stumped by certain things. Not even the mailing list could avail me.

Perhaps collaboration would have been the best educator. If I modify the source code, are you interested in seeing a copy of the modification? I'm interested in how you would solve the types of problems I encounter. Perhaps I could solve problems you encounter.

It always seemed to me it would be fantastic to build an IF incrementally using feedback from dozens of people commenting to a blog, letting me know what I tried that they thought was plausible, that the IF wasn't prepared for. Do you want to do that?
posted by matt_arnold at 7:17 AM on July 31, 2011

Good on you for just diving straight in.
I've often thought of writing an IF game but somehow it never happens.

I like your writing style. Made me chuckle a couple of times. It's a great start. Keep it up and let us know whenever you have updates and if you need testers.

Incidentally, I don't know how much programming you do but if you're not using something like CVS or Subversion you might want to look into it. Even if you're the only one writing anything it will save you a lot of headaches as your game gets bigger and more complex and you realize, "hey I really liked the way it was two weeks ago. If only I still had those files..."

Anyway, great job!
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 10:37 AM on July 31, 2011

Jorus: Absolutely, yes. I will get cracking on those.

matt_arnold: That sounds like a fantastic idea. Yeah, I was stumped plenty. Some of it was trial-and-error but most of it I have to admit was hitting on the exact right combination of words to search for on the internets and various forums. But bouncing the source back and forth would be a great educator I reckon. Memail me and we can work out stuff in more detail!

Mister_Sleight: I'm not using anything of the sort and you're right, version control is an important thing I didn't even think of. Thanks for the tip!
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:23 PM on July 31, 2011

I would love to give you some feedback James, but maybe it's my lack of knowledge of IF but I have no idea how one must progress passed the bo's'n throwing you off the cheeseboat. Its quite annoying as I would love to help and am keen on helping you out as I may well be doing something similar myself soon.
posted by Cogentesque at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2011

Good luck! It's good to see more IF being produced. I'll take a look around tonight—I love new adventures!
posted by willhopkins at 5:09 PM on August 2, 2011

Cogentesque - thanks for the feedback. Yeah, the bo's'n/seacheese scenario is a bit too tricky. Mainly I was trying to figure out the exactly programming required to get things to happen over multiple turns, without giving much thought to why that was happening exactly. I'm rewriting a lot of the descriptions to make it more obvious that in order to progress, you must "blind" him.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:54 PM on August 2, 2011

Right right James - really cool. I got to Beach "That's it for the game for the moment. Thanks for playing."


1)Writing: Killer writing style, very good situational pieces I love how you are bobbing along (excuse the pun) and everything seems interesting, ok and predictable, but then all of a sudden you are hit with a very powerful or disturbing situation "Against your will, you swallow a mouthful of water" all of a sudden, everyone knows what a gobful of salty sea water is - and it's quite an unexepcted smack in the face - but very good at putting reader in an anxious mind-set: "shit...I've got to do something...and its got to be good". Another one: "Snot driblling down into your ear because of your position" again, very well put, made me think hard and shift my body slightly to try and visualise the position - very desperate and very pathetic and very unexpected and very good imagery.

2) Comedy: Really chuckley comedy at times as well. "Take flotsam" - like a maniac stocking up tins of beans before a tornadoe "wildly grabbing and stuffing them in pockets". Also "x ship" "rocks ... or lightning...or whatever..." very funny
also "wait....wait....wait...wait...wait...." You are dead, slack-jawed as you were in life." Made me properly laugh, made me feel as if I was properly part of the story and my actions were completely important and understood.

3) Game play elements: this is what hopefully my (and others') feedback will help with and and how you will progress after doing some more IF. Exactly as I said before, you want to play test it many times to try and hammer out all the right verbs and approaches "hit eye" "punch Bo's'n" "kick face" "punch eye" "kick." "push cheese" "push bo's'n" "move bo's'n off cheese" Are some examples that I tried before you teling me I had to specifically "blind" the fellow. It mostly revolved around the clues I had to work with eg: "Bo's'n has only one good eye" so my work was concentrated around exactly that using IF verbs from this handy guide (attack / punch / kick / open / take etc)

3.1) Game play elements: Bo's'n is the correct way of spelling it and very thematic. BUT from a gameplay perspective, the early part of the game will focus on this and it did become frustrating having to find my damned apostrophe key lots of times. -B- -O- - ' - -S- -'- -N- is a lot to go through everytime, and of course as you are dead in 6 turns anyway, there is a lot of retyping this. Basically, at this early stage, I think it's good to totally remove any obstacles or barriers for a new player eg "Tomo the Bo's'n" then "kick tomo" becomes a lot easier than having to get out my keyboard map and bracing everytime I type it - worried that I have wasted my single typed "attempt" at story prgression by putting the apostrophe in the wrong place.

3.2) Game play elements: Help! - as I can't quite remember what you should really know when playing IF (examine (X) everything, go north instead of "walk away from ___ " etc) I'm not really yet sure what's going on: when mr game player is crying out for help and instruction, you have to give it to him : "Help" "Tutorial" "Help me" "What do I do?" "What is this?" all need to trigger a basic console set of instructions for the absolute novice - that way we strip out any potential blocks or barriers to all players. Eg, without me asking your for help with the "blind" bit, I wouldn't have been able to give this feedback

4) Continuity: (as mentioned previously) If bo's'n has "one good eye" and he "rubs his eye" I (as a gamer) understand that this is an interactable object but this is already explained previously.
Also "...and there is some cheese bobbing about" cool if you wanted to do a Sam and Max kind of "Oh yeah. and there is a giant tin of tuna here too..." suprise comedic element similar to the "Alas a sudden storm!" (which is brilliant btw) then cool, but it might be worth tossing in a little "The ship is called SS. Roquefort, charged to deliver its golden creamy haul to new shores" or some little clever element or Stealth Pun just to tie that element in with the prose a little more

5) Programming : Nice simple one here,
a) Get on the cheese -> trigger bo's'n climbing up it.
b) Get back off the cheese -> bo's'n is still trying to "take you off the cheese" even though the situation has otherwise reset - perhaps another possible path needs to be established here, either a simple "you die" or another path "the bo's'n is at the top, pumping his fists in the air as he is now king of the cheese castle how will you get back on - You are drowning little orphan!" so it would be the first of "alternate paths" in your IF.

I hope this is the kind of thing you were after from feedback James. Apologies if I come across as criticising as that is not the intention what so ever. Brilliant so far, especilaly the writing - please tell me when there is more to have a look at (meta mail or on this post). I honestly think if you keep going in a similar manner you could probably get somewhere serious in the 2011 IF Competition or the XYZZY awards

good work man, really cool
posted by Cogentesque at 2:49 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey, wow, thanks Cogentesque, this is really awesome feedback and you are totally right about all of it. I am going to seriously fiddle with the initial scene and expand the beach bit over the next few days and hopefully have a version 2 up by next week.

(Incidentally, "bosun" and "boatswain" should both work!)
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2011

My absolute pleasure J, I always thought that if some of these game dev and publishing companies actually invested good money into play testing and QA by "professionals" and took their comments seriously then they would be much much much better. It's easy to find people willing to play your game but may well be harder to find others (like perhaps on this thread) who know what they are talking about and can look at game play and programming from a very broad and totally encompassing angle to give you the right idea of what people see, think, and want from a game.

Have you got the full story board and an idea of the treatment already sorted for this game? You said it was from a Comic book origianally - is it already all maped out?
posted by Cogentesque at 3:02 AM on August 4, 2011

Okay, second alpha is done, but I'm having a lot of trouble getting it to work in the web-based Parchment interpreter (it insists on playing through the old version, no matter how much renaming and cache-blitzing I do), so until I can fix that, or find a different service, I'm afraid I can only offer a direct download to the zblorb, which is here.

I personally use Gargoyle to run IF on my Windows machine, but there are many other interpreters available for all manner of comput-o-tron.

posted by tumid dahlia at 7:08 AM on August 11, 2011

Source or text file would be awesome to look over if that's ok with you J
posted by Cogentesque at 2:54 AM on August 12, 2011

New source here.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:21 AM on August 12, 2011

I'm absolutely loving this game! Though I've either gone as far as I can go so far or I'm just too thick to figure out what to do next. Does this one have a, "this is it so far" screen like the first version? If so, then the answer is I'm too thick to figure out what to do next.

But I'm still loving it!

Would a room by room walk-through be useful to you? Like I'll try absolutely everything I can think of and let you know if anything unexpected happens. Example: at the start I can look at the water and I can look at the ocean and I get a good description. But looking at the waves tells me that they don't exist. Even though "waves" are specifically mentioned in the description.

It's not a big deal, and probably not a priority for you, but if it would be a useful I'd be happy to write up a list for you.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 9:56 AM on August 12, 2011

Mister_Sleight_of_Hand, that is an absolutely wonderful idea. Apparently there's a way to set it up so that somebody can play the game, but also type in comments to the developer whenever something/unexpected happens. I'll see if I can cram that in. Thanks for the heads-up re: waves! And, no, I apologise, I didn't put in a "this is it" screen, but there's nothing that happens on the beach apart from wandering about and grabbing/looking at stuff. I'll get cracking on that too!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:02 PM on August 12, 2011

Oh good! I'm glad I'm not a complete idiot.

It'll be a few days before I have time to do the walk-through thing but I'll let you know once I've it's done.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2011

Okay, alpha three is done. I'm chasing my tail pretty extensively on all of this but now the Beachhead is "done", for the moment, and I can move inland. There's plenty to do on the beach now and it should keep interested parties busy for a few minutes!

Parchment seems to be working too, so the directly-playable link is here. Direct downloads are at the same links as above.

(Still no Help function, sorry, and once you get to the Vegetative Arch that's the end of the game.)

Comments and feedback and everything appreciated, as always. Hopefully it won't do anything too stupid.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:07 AM on August 14, 2011

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