There have been so many well-done electronic lit projects that came out of the creative assignment. I want to share my own, and I will, though it comes with the disclaimer “not yet finished”. From a different perspective, this translates to “My project was a mess, was really a huge failure.” But I only say this because that failure has been more illuminating than making a perfectly polished piece with little struggle. I worked in Inform 7, and as I’m sure many of us came to see, it is challenging – even infuriating at times – to figure out how to build the world you want for the story. What ended up happening was this.
My idea was to have the player character feel exhausted, drift off to sleep, and “wake up” in their dream, where the dream world itself would be the main focus of the story. I had coded part of an elaborate maze that the character would have to solve in the dream world, then went back to the story’s starting point only to realize I had no idea how to transition the character from the real world to the dream world in terms of I7 coding. I found some information on this, though it wasn’t quite what I had in mind, and worked off an example in one of the manuals for how to change states. The version of the project here doesn’t even go into the dream world, because the introductory part alone ended up at around 1000 words and the deadline drew ever closer (made even more frantic by my initial failure at Inform, frustrated try at Twine, then return to Inform), and I was only about a fifth of the way through the story I had planned.
I wanted the conversational depth of a piece like Galatea, the almost maze-like quality of Colossal Cave Adventure, the surrealism with which ordinary objects behave abnormally in Shade. These were all so well done that I didn’t think seriously enough about how enormous each task would be. My respect for the amount of work, skill and thought that has to go into each piece of IF has gone through the roof after trying to understand the basics about how the coding/creative process works in something like Inform. I was entirely unfamiliar with text adventures before the beginning of this class, and it took me ages to get through some of the first ones we read. After looking at them in terms of their coding, I feel I can navigate them a bit better. Further, I am much more appreciative of a certain openness that comes with IF after these attempts — I can open up the source text of Galatea to see how Emily Short built her amazingly complex conversation paths; I can open the source of Shade and gather clues about how to make objects work in ways more suited to surrealism — that kind of openness regarding the crafting of interactive fiction is a beautiful thing.