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Month: February 2018

What’s It All About?

What’s It All About?

So, I finally got around to doing something I probably should have done earlier… added some features to the site to make it easier for new readers to find out what this blog is about.  There’s now a prominent “About This Site” widget on the sidebar on the right, and there’s a menu in the top right that can take readers to a new About This Blog page (also linked from the aforementioned widget) and the Big List.

And speaking of the Big List, yes, I’ve finally gotten around to doing what I said I was probably going to do eventually, and made it available as a Google spreadsheet.  (Since I already had it as an Excel spreadsheet, this was pretty simple to do.)  There have been a few additions to the list since I first posted the initial version, some from comments on previous posts and some that I found on Kickstarter.  There will certainly be more additions in the future; I still have some sites noted that may list other systems I don’t have on my list yet, and in fact a new one just occurred to me a few days ago: it turns out that you can search Steam for games with level editors.  Of course, most of the games and game creation systems that turn up in that search is going to be recent releases that aren’t a high priority to add to the list (since it’ll be a very long time till I get to them chronologically), but some are likely to be rereleases of old games.

Anyway, now that that bit of housekeeping is out of the way, tomorrow I plan to make a post about the Super Tony Land alpha… which I’ve been spending way too much time on the last few days…

Pondering Puzzles

Pondering Puzzles

Okay, while in this post I’ll be talking about the games I’ve been creating in Wander, this post isn’t really about Wander specifically, but about text adventure games in general.  And more specifically, about puzzle design.

While planning out one of the games I was going to create with Wander, “The Eye in the Forest”, I kind of stumbled into a stupid trap of game design.  Fortunately, I think I stumbled back out of it.  I’d come up with a particular puzzle I was fond of, involving the player’s reaching a certain platform, but then later on it occurred to me that, given some of the available objects in the game and their possible interactions, there was another course of action that logically should also allow the player to get to the platform.  Of course, I already had a solution in mind for the puzzle, so I wrestled for some time with the question of how to rule out that unintended alternate solution. It wasn’t until the next day that the answer finally occurred to me, and when it did it was obvious:

Don’t.

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Three Kickstarter Successes

Three Kickstarter Successes

Well, I have a bit more to say about the Wander game I’m creating, but I want to break things up a bit and I said my next post would be about game creation systems on Kickstarter, so… let’s do that.

As I said in a previous post, I hadn’t been actively looking for game creation systems on Kickstarter until a tweet by a friend let me know about Super Tony Land (which now at the time of this writing has just passed its goal with 21 days still to go and has accordingly just added a stretch goal). But then that got me wondering how many other such projects had been on Kickstarter, and how they’d done.

As it turns out, the answer to the first question is not nearly as many as I expected, and the answer to the second is… well, probably about what I’d have expected.

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Many Unhappy Returns

Many Unhappy Returns

So, once I started reimplementing the Wander interpreter in Javascript, it quickly became obvious where that limitation on synonyms comes from that I mentioned in the post on the limits of the Wander language.  Basically, the interpreter stores each word as a structure (that in, in the C code, a struct) with four fields: one holding the word itself as a string, one holding an index to the “root word” of which it’s a synonym (or 0, if the word is a root word), one holding the flags described in the Wander language overview post, and one holding the location of the object referenced by that word.  (Naturally, these last two fields don’t apply to verbs.)  The problem is that in the C code the index to the root is of type char… which means it can only hold values from -128 to 127, which means, since the index is never negative, that only the first 128 words in the word definition list can have synonyms.  (In practice, that means the number of words that can have synonyms is a lot less than 128, because for all but the last the synonyms themselves also have to be among those first 128 words.)

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The Limits of Wandering

The Limits of Wandering

All right, so, I’ve come up with an idea for the game I want to write in Wander, and I’ve started coding it. (I don’t have the entire game and all its puzzles planned, but I have enough to get started.) Working title: “The Eye in the Forest”. I’m… actually afraid some of the puzzles might be a little too tough. There’s one especially near the endgame that requires some use of different mathematical bases… then again, while they may be difficult, I don’t think any of the puzzles are actually unfair, and I like the way they fit together enough to go with it… what the hey.

So now that I’m working with the language, what do I think of it so far? Well, like I said in the last post, I actually kind of like the quirky syntax of the fields. It takes a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of it it’s kind of fun. That’s not to say this would be my first choice of a language to write a text adventure in, of course, because it has some pretty significant limitations. So let’s talk about that a little.

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Extras from the Eighties

Extras from the Eighties

Huh, okay, when I posted my Big List, I knew it wasn’t a complete, final version, but I did at least think I probably had the earliest game creation systems covered.  I had no doubt I was still missing a lot of game creation systems from the 2000s and 2010s, and maybe even some from the 90s, but I thought my list was probably pretty much complete through the 80s.

Of course, I was wrong. I’ve since found out about at least two games from the 80s that weren’t on the list.

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Wander: Language Overview

Wander: Language Overview

So, now that we’ve looked at the surviving Wander games, let’s take a glance at the Wander language. (I’m not sure “language” is entirely the right word… data file format? But I’ll call it a “language” for purposes of brevity.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it as I actually start using it to make a game, but for now let’s just see what we can get from the documentation.

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