Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zarfplan: Progress report about progress

If I want to call this the "June report", I'd better get it posted in the next couple of hours... That is, if you're in the US. Everyone else can blame the leap-second.

Last month, I was saying I had a complete picture of the puzzle structure. I can now add to that:
  • An update of PlotEx which can handle the puzzle structure. (I wasn't kidding about it needing optimization, woo boy.)
  • A map! (Not complete in detail -- I may split up some rooms and shift closets around -- but complete in structure.)
  • A rough list of where everything in the game belongs on the map. (Again, not yet fixed in terms of what goes in what closet.)
  • The basic Inform code for the ritual engine.
  • The first three rituals.
  • A unit-testing script for testing new rituals as I implement them.
  • A Secret Project.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Everything I know about digital preservation

(but was afraid to ask)

The first session I dropped into at the ELO Conference was the "Archiving Workshop". The eye candy here is Bill Bly's hypertext piece We Descend, running on the Mac Classic platform that he originally started writing it on. (That's System 6-point-something, I believe.) Enjoy the pixelly nostalgia!

The point, of course, is that getting data off of such antique equipment is a permanent and increasing headache. (This Mac was borrowed from a library, so Bly had the equal headache of trying to get the app onto it from his much newer Mac laptop.) The piece was originally written with a proprietary tool, Storyspace -- an old version which is no longer supported on current OSes. (He has since updated the project to the current, but still proprietary, Storyspace 2.)

The whole notion of archiving and replaying digital art (and games, etc) is rife with these issues. See, for example, the ELO's 2004 publication titled Acid-Free Bits.

The session turned into a lively roundtable discussion, and in the course of that, I popped in a mention of the IF Archive. I knew our community is pretty good about that stuff -- I've always been proud of it, and to be part of it -- but I was startled when some of the other participants vociferously lionized us for it. "The IF community is the gold standard for archiving!" Exact quote. Yikes!

(Apologies, by the way: I'm not going to even try to remember everybody's name. This post will be all "somebody" and "that guy". Feel free to comment and fill in blanks.)

The discussion alternately surprised and startled me with the different assumptions that people had about archiving. Like, for example, everybody thought this was a hard problem and the IF people had done something very difficult in solving it. "It's a distributed, mirrored archive containing every IF game ever created. When you put it that way, it does sound kind of impressive!"

Okay, that was Aaron Reed who said that. I know his name. But point taken.

Let me try to tease out some of those assumptions, what turns out to be easy, and what's probably more difficult than it looks. I will do this in the best way: with a set of Taoist aphorisms!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

RealMyst for iPad

As promised, Cyan's port of RealMyst for iPad has just hit the iOS App Store.

It requires an iPad 2 or the new (third-gen) iPad. Cyan's original promos also promised support for the newest iPhone, but apparently they couldn't make that work, because it ain't there. The planned price is ten bucks, but they're doing a launch sale at seven. So snag it now, if you're into buying Myst a lot. (We recall that the original flat-image Myst appeared for iPhone/iPad in 2009.)

It's very pretty -- of course; albeit with the slightly simplified RealMyst world. (The original Myst allowed arbitrarily detailed images, but a 3D engine has to count polygons.) This is probably at the limit of what the newest iPad can handle. Load times between Ages are pretty awful, and even moving between rooms induces a second or two of delay to load new textures. However, that aside, walking and looking around are quite smooth. The skies and ripple-animated water look fantastic. The only missing graphical element (so I am told) is the day-night lighting cycle in some of the Ages.

(And, may I say, the new iPad has a fantastic display. Go ahead, click through to the full-sized screenshot. 2048x1536, baby, and you can just spin around like an acrobat.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Anatomy of a bug hunt

As my loyal followers know, I released Dreamhold on a Friday, and then spent most of Saturday trying to figure out why it was crashing for some players. Nobody ever wants a software release like that, but I did find the bug, so it's as much of a win as one can hope for. The bug fix just hit the App Store.

I thought it might be interesting to detail the whole sequence of events. Or maybe it'll be as dull as ditch dirt! I don't know. It seems like a good narrative to me, but I was dere, Charlie.