So what does a month look like?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tagged: hadean lands, zarf, interactive fiction, curveship, if, xyzzy awards

A month has gone by, and it's time for a progress update.

(Clever people will note that there's no causal connection between the halves of that sentence.)

The obvious question is, how is Hadean Lands doing? You might be following my "Progress" tweets, in which I have been bragging about IF API spec updates and interpreter releases and iPhone framework code and business purchases and blog posts, but not a word about Hadean Lands.

Fear not. HL work is getting done. But if I were tweeting about it, you'd see a lot of "Had idea." "Had idea." "Thought about how ideas fit together." "Had idea." "Picked some ideas off the list. Put them on another list."

Hadean Lands is still in the design phase, is what's going on. I had hoped to start that in December; it turns out I started it in January. Roughly speaking, I spent the first half of January free-associating bits of game -- scenes, puzzles, solutions, story elements. And then I spent the second half of January putting these bits into a game outline, with major goals and minor goals and puzzles attached to specific locations in the plot. The outline is not yet done.

If you think a month is a long time to spend on that, well, it's not eight hours a day. I said that I do design work in the cracks between other things. So far it's mostly been in the cracks between 2 AM and collapsing into bed. Procrastination is a powerful force in my life. The good news is that I procrastinate by doing other IF work, and then when I'm out of excuses -- which is 2 AM -- I pull up the HL outline and push the pieces around some more.

So if you've been imagining me as an IF-designing machine, then I apologize. No. That's not how I work. But the other good news is that I work on the HL project every day -- meaning, every day -- that is the Law and the Discipline. (I missed two days in January. Also Hunt weekend. Such are my sins.)

So the progress happens even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes. Sometime soon, I hope, I will look at the outline and realize that there aren't any holes in it left to fill. That still won't be a complete design, though. I haven't started to plan specific rituals, or the details of how the story elements will run. There will be more work. But the outline is the next milestone, I guess.

(As I think I once said, it will be accompanied by a great wail of grief as I realize how many bright ideas are left that will never fit into the game.)

So, January and Hadean Lands aside, what's up in the IF world? Two big announcements popped up on Groundhog Day (no jokes, we've had six weeks of winter just packed into February already):

Nick Montfort announced the first public release of Curveship, his experimental narrative IF system. This is not immediately a replacement for Inform or TADS; the parser is minimal, for example. But Curveship is set up to explore some new IF territory.

Its big idea is representing story events as first-class concepts. (Traditional IF systems only represent objects and commands.) This allows the author to vary the order of the narrative, filter it through different voices or points of view, work with different characters' awareness of story events, and other neat tricks.

The 2010 XYZZY Award nominees have been posted. Anybody who's played the games can vote, and voting runs until Feb. 24th. (Then the award ceremony is on the 26th.) The XYZZYs are IF's Oscars -- or IF's Hugos, depending on your medium of analogy -- the community's look back at what was significant in the past year.

Both of my 2010 games, Dual Transform and Heliopause, have been nominated for various game categories. (The Hadean Lands teaser, as a demo, was ineligible.) Also my work on browser-based IF. But don't go voting just because you like me. There are a host of very high-quality games nominated, including The Warbler's Nest by co-Gameshelfer (and PRIFer, and video director) Jason McIntosh. (Also, while I'm mentioning the good folks of the PRIF, One Eye Open got several nominations.)

That, I think, is IF today.