Issue 11 November 2003
News and announcements.
1. Campbell’s back and working
1. Hanadorobou releases his final
2. ADRIFT facts and figures
2. Competition news
(End of Year Comp; DavidW’s
Halloween Minicomp; Third One
Hour Comp; Annual IF Comp;
Italian One Room Comp)
3. Forum news
(New forum rules posted;
InsideADRIFT Awards nominations
Regular features
2. Editorial
2. Drifters birthdays
4. Events diary
3. Drifters toolbox: XnView
8. Interview: Eric Mayer
The (big) idea
: Testing is good
Think piece
by DavidW: the
great dry patch of ADRIFT
Failed game intro by Cannibal
12. "Asylum" by Mel S
14. Manual p18: Tasks
Issue Details
November 2003 edited by KF
Issue 11 (Volume 2 no 2)
Next issue out on 29th Nov 2003
Includes an interview with Roger
Firth of “Cloak of Darkness
News and announcements
Campbell’s back and working on ADRIFT
After his marriage last month, Campbell has returned to us and
set to work on trying to squash the bugs. With assistance,
primarily of Mystery and tech, ADRIFT 4.0 release 42 went into
the start of a rigorous beta testing process at the end of
September. Campbell decided to free release 42 for us on the 7
October 2003 with a host of bug fixes listed in the release notes.
So far the signs are good that this release has sorted some of the
issues that had blighted release 41.
It was proposed that a testing game should be produced that
would be designed to run through as many ADRIFT features as
possible. This would allow for a quick standardized checking
procedure, but there will still be a need for testing old games for
compatibility as well as testing that no glitches have been
introduced to the authoring of new games.
(Release notes are on page 7 of this newsletter)
Hanadorobou releases his final ADRIFT game
The good news is that Hana has released a new game “Three
monkeys one cage” a science fiction multiple puzzle game. The
bad news is that he also announced that it will be his final work
produced with ADRIFT.
This is a sad occurrence for all have the interests of ADRIFT at
heart, Hanadorobou having produced, “The PK Girl”, the highest
ever placed ADRIFT game in the Annual Interactive Fiction
It has been unfortunate to see his disillusionment growing with
ADRIFT as things as his work was frustrated by some of the bugs
that caused so many problems. The hope is that we will all be
encouraged to go that extra mile with our games to make them of
a standard to be acclaimed outside of our group. Good luck
Hanadorobou, we all wish you well in whatever projects you work
on in the future, hope TADS2 allows you to accomplish all that
you wish to.
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
Computers, don’t you love ‘em!
On the evening after I uploaded
the last newsletter, my P C
decided to fall over rather
heavily and I have lost a fair bit
of data. Then I turned on my
laptop, which I hadn’t used for a
while, went online and had a
little case of a virus.
Ten hours later I got rid of the
infestation and am now writing
this on the laptop. The other
machine is working well enough
for me to get a bit of data off it.
Hopefully you have all tried my
ADRIFT version of the newsletter
that I put up last month. It was
an interesting experiment
moving the text into the different
format, but did it work. Judging
from the responses I have seen
it probabl y isn’t something
worth pursuing.
Send any suggestions, requests
or comments concerning
InsideADRIFT to
Find the newsletter at:
Drifters birthdays
2 tsm_paul (27)
4 Lannly (19)
7 quantumdaimon (24)
11 Malym (35)
15 CJCole (33)
22 AgapeIncognito (30)
25 DuoDave (37)
27 Cowboy (47); Kel-nage (16);
qkara (24); desilets (57)
Campbell Wild also thanked Hanadorobou on the forum for all of
his bug reports and suggestions and said “it will be a great shame
to lose you to this community”.
With the fact that DuoDave and The Amazing Poodle Boy have
started to direct their efforts towards other IF systems, there must
be concern that we are losing some of our most skilled authors.
As if to confirm this rather negative view, Marno has also
announced that he’s moving across to TADS2 because of the
problems he has hit in developing an ADRIFT game.
ADRIFT Facts and Figures
DavidW, continuing his attempts at providing a hugely informative
site, has now published a detailed breakdown of ADRIFT game
statistics on his website. He has listed all the ADRIFT games he
has found (well over 100) broken down in order of the filesize, and
also number of rooms, objects and tasks.
It is one of those incredible works where you wonder why anyone
would waste their time doing it, but you then spend time looking
through it. The statistics were apparently put together from the
information available via the jAsea Java runner. Already included
are the games from the Third ADRIFT One-Hour Competition. The
pages can be accessed via
Competition news roundup
In the ADRIFT world the autumn has come through with a couple
of unheralded competitions to help us pass the time.
The ADRIFT End of Year Competition 2003 is still in limbo as it
doesn’t get under way for a while. I have posted to the forum for
expressions of interest to enter and, although the response hasn’t
been overwhelming, there have been intentions to enter from
DavidW, Woodfish and the Amazing Poodle Boy. Mad Monk and
Mel S are hopeful. Sadly Mystery’s house move makes her an
unlikely entrant.(
Third ADRIFT One-Hour Game Competition was announced on
October by Woodfish, much to my surprise! It was one of those
competitions where you have one hour (on your honour) to write
the game.
For those with a sense of the historic, a game escaped from my
hard disc and into the competition. There were a total of 13
entries including an amazing 3 from Davidw. Judging began on
October. (Full details were announced on the forum
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
InsideADRIFT Awards
As I announced in the last
newsletter, at the end of this year
Drifters will get the chance to vote
for their favourites in a number of
ADRIFT categories.
This reall y will only work if people
bother to join in. Awards will be
useless if there are only five votes.
Awards timetable
Initial – opened a thread launching
this and asking people to put
forward their ideas for categories.
Current - announced the
categories that being contested
(see below) and asked for
nominations, one thread per
30 Novem ber – the 3 top
nominations in each category will
be announced (trying to remove
the dafter attempts to rig the vote).
6 December - The voting period
31 December – voting ends.
4 January 2004 - The award
winners, along with the winner of
the ADRIFT End of Year
Competition, which will be game of
the year, will then be announced.
There wil l be an online ceremony,
probably on the MSN ADRIFT
group chat.
Due to the international nature of
our group, I will post on the forum
asking people to select from three
possible time spans for the
ADRIFT Halloween Minicomp 2003 has sadly now been
abandoned by DavidW as he feels, probably correctly, that the
Third ADRIFT One-Hour Competition had stolen it’s thunder and
reduced the need for it. I am sorry to see this competition fail to
take off as it was a good idea, I would certainly propose we keep
it in the future.
The Annual Interactive fiction competition is at the judging phase,
where the authors find out if their hard work is appreciated by the
great unwashed masses out there.
The 2003 IF Competition is now into the final stages of the
judging period. Rather disappointingly all of the intentions to enter
have resulted in just 30 actual entries to the competition. Even
sadder is that there is just one ADRIFT game entered, “Sophie’s
Adventure” by David Whyld (DavidW).
All votes must be in by 15
November. All timings are set to 11:59
Eastern Standard Time on the stated days. All the details are at
Italian One Room Competition is still taking place
Forum news
New forum rules postedMystery has adapted a new set of forum
rules to give a bit more guidance as to what is acceptable
behaviour. The aim is to discourage some of the more antisocial
things that happen on the forum, including personal attacks on
others. This will hopefully guide us towards being a more
welcoming group when others come visiting the forum.
There has been some discussion over the initial banning of the
word newbie, as it is sometimes considered derogatory, and now
states there should be “no newbie bashing”. Rather
embarrassingly it was pointed out that the forum itself describes
new users as newbies.
InsideADRIFT Awards nominations requested
Following last months request for ideas for categories for the
Awards the decision was that my initial ideas were fine, so I have
now posted up the categories in a thread each for Drifters to
decide who they want to put to the final vote. The idea is that
there will be three nominees to choose from in the December
voting. More details of the Awards are on page 3 of this
Drifters Toolbox: XnView
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
Events Diary
October 24, 2003
DavidW's ADRIFT Halloween
Minicom p 2003 - entries in
ADRIFT Hal loween Minicomp 2003
has been announced by DavidW to
fill in all those spare hours we all
have in the autumn. The
competition is limit to games with
20 or fewer rooms and
unsurprisingly it has to be on a
Halloween theme, though there is a
bit of debate as to what this needs
to be. Entries need to be in by 24
October, with the judging
completed by midnight on 31
October. Full details are posted on
the forum in the Halloween Comp
October 25, 2003
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 out today
The November issue of the
ADRIFT newsletter is due out
today. (Hopefully as you are
reading it!)
October 31, 2003
DavidW's ADRIFT Halloween
Minicom p - judging ends
November 15, 2003
2003 Interactive Fiction
All votes must be submitted by the
end of the day.
November 29, 2003
InsideADRIFT Issue 12 out today
The December Issue of the
ADRIFT newsletter is out today.
This is the last one to be issued in
December 21, 2003
ADRIFT End of Year competition
2003: entries in and judging
This is a competition for any game
made usi ng the Adrift Interactive
Fiction Creation System that was
released during the calendar year
The entries must be sent to
Thought I’d this month go for a small graphics program that I have
been using for a number of years. XnView is a utility for viewing
and converting graphic files. At it’s simplest it is a great image
browser, but the ability to manipulate images and save them in a
different format is a boon for making the best use of your
graphics. A bonus for those for whom English and French aren’t
their mother tongue is that XnView gives you a choice of over
forty languages.
Although it can simply be used as a way of looking at images it
also has the ability to make slide shows or create web pages of
thumbnails. I am probably doing it a disservice by missing out
some other major feature, so I’ll leave you with the list of features
from the website (http://www.xnview.com)
It has the following feature list:
Import about 400
graphic file formats
Export about 40
graphic file formats
Multipage TIFF, Animated GIF, Animated ICO support
Adjust brigthness, contrast...
Modify number of colors
Apply filters (blur, average, emboss, ...)
Apply effects (lens, wave, ...)
Fullscreen mode
Slide show
Picture browser
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
arriving no later than 15:00hrs
GMT on Sunday 21 December
2003. I wil l then try and get
everything together for judging to
commence that evening.
January 04, 2004
ADRIFT End of Year Competition
2003 Judging ends
Judging ends today, with marks to
reach KF by 15:00hrs GMT on Sunday
4 January 2003
January 10, 2004
InsideADRIFT Issue 13 due out
The January/February issue of the
ADRIFT newsletter should be out
February 28, 2004
InsideADRIFT Issue 14 due out
The March issue of the ADRIFT
newsletter should be available
April 18, 2004
ADRIFT Spring Com petition
2004: entries due in
This is a competition for new
ADRIFT games, there is no limit on
the game size except that it should
be less than 400kb OR if larger it
should be hosted elsewhere and a
link supplied. More details will be
posted later. Judging will take
place in the 2 week period to 2 May
May 02, 2004
ADRIFT Spring Com petition
2004: judging ends and results
Batch convert
Thumbnail create
Screen capture
Contact Sheet create
Multi-page file create (TIFF, DCX, LDF)
TWAIN support (W indows only)
Print support (Windows onl y)
Drag & Drop support (Windows only)
44 languages support (Windows only)
And many many other things...
is provided as
for private non-commercial or
educational use (including non-profit organization)
Think piece by DavidW
"The Great Dry P atch Of ADRIFT"
A funny thing occurred to me when I happened to glance at the
main ADRIFT downloads page the other day. I thought: “hey!
There's a lot of games here written in 2003. And there I was
thinking that no one wrote games anymore!”
And indeed, it seemed at first that there *were* a lot of games on
the downloads page for 2003: 26 in total. A pretty decent amount
for a community the size of ADRIFT, particularly in light of the fact
that the IFComp 2003 – from a community numbering in the
thousands - garnered just 30 entries.
But then I took a closer look at the games and noted that the bulk
of them were mini-games. 16, in fact, of the 26 turned out to be
mini-games written for one competition or another and of the
remaining 10 a couple – “Lara Croft & The Sun Obelisk” and “The
Woods Are Dark” – had been released previously (though the
former title in a considerably different version). The actual total of
new full-sized ADRIFT games released in 2003 was 8, which was
actually the sole output of a mere 5 writers: 3 for myself, 2 for Mel
S, 1 for J J Guest, Syke39 and Driftingon apiece. This all worked
out at slightly less than 1 game per month. Not an especially
impressive showing considering how easy to use ADRIFT is and
how many people there are registered on the forum.
Why so many people yet so few games.
Reason 1 – “I'm waiting for a stable version of ADRIFT” or “I'm
waiting for the bugs to be ironed out”
I've heard this stated as a reason quite a few times. From various
bug reports by various ADRIFT members posted over the last
year or so, you might be forgiven for thinking that the latest
release of ADRIFT is so completely full of bugs that it crashes
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
The (big) idea
Testing is good
OK, that may not exactly be
news, but many do not take
testing seriously.
A game that starts off with a
string of spelling mistakes will
not get you much of an
audience, and if you have
errors in objects or
commands your game may
be unplayable.
That doesn’t mean spelling is
the only problem, guess the
verb is probably the main
irritation for players. The
author can play test all they
like, but a tester may have a
completely different idea of
what to do with an object!
As was discussed with
playing the IF Comp games,
most players will give up a
game in 10-15 minutes if it
doesn’t appeal to them.
Testing can make the
difference so don’t be afraid
to ask for and act on advice
from testers. Losing out
because the player is stuck
in room one is a waste of
your time writing the game,
and testing will only improve
a game.
every time you touch the keyboard. Or maybe it’s even worse
than that. Yep, maybe ADRIFT is so buggy these days that the
mere “thought” of writing a game with it is enough to get it to
Or maybe, just maybe – and here I'm going out on a limb just a
little teensy weensy bit – it’s got a few bugs that aren’t really
anything disastrous and 99% of them can be avoided with a little
bit of effort.
Part of me suspects the latter of these might actually be the truth.
Granted, there *are* bugs with the latest release of ADRIFT but
the majority of these are fairly minor and you could write an entire
game without coming across a single one. I know. I have done.
Every system will always have a certain amount of bugs no matter
how carefully it’s tested but I've never yet come across a bug that
I wasn’t able to avoid by saving my game files under different
names and, above all, being *careful*.
Try it and see. If you press a key and your computer explodes as
a result of this I’ll admit I was wrong.
Reason 2 – “I'm a perfectionist. I won’t release the game I've
spent 10 hours a day working on for the past 16 years until
I'm at least 101% happy with it.”
In which case you're never likely to finish a game.
While we all like to have games that are brilliantly well written,
have intricate and thoughtful puzzles, a storyline better than
anything Shakespeare could come up with and the kind of
amazing plot twists that people are going to miss the new Matrix
film just to stay home and discuss – there isn't, at the end of the
day, any reason to be *that* much of a perfectionist. People aren’t
going to play a game and then automatically give up because
partway down the 84th page of text you've missed out a comma,
or shortly after they’ve been playing for 18 solid hours you
introduce a new character who isn't entirely believable, or that
puzzle you just used didn’t *quite* have the spark of originality
that will have people remembering it a hundred years from now.
If such people exist, forget them. They have impossibly high
standards and nothing you ever do will satisfy them.
Perfection is overrated, in my humble opinion. Sure, no one wants
to play a bugged game or one with a storyline they’ve come
across half a dozen times before. But not everyone is looking for
perfection. Some people just want to play a game.
And then there's the fact that, perfectionist though you might like
to think you are, if you spend hours working on a game then it
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
ADRIFT 4.0 Release 42
Bug Fixes
Control Panel collapses and
expands to correct size if
window bars non-standard
'Get all' doesn't try to take
objects from within others if
not explicit
'empty' on it's own doesn't
crash Runner
'I are' grammar error corrected
when nothing to drop in 1st
Control Panel doesn't crash
Runner when movement
restrictions are based on
object state
Deleting objects updates
Player starting object correctly
Modules: Move all held
objects to Hidden now imports
Events not running problem
sorted when tasks run
No assumption to take objects
before putting if task overrides
Task failing restrictions
override putting and dropping
Removed redundant output
when task overrides put if
object not understood
Put command requires
reference to an object to put it
Incomplete Put command
doesn't crash Runner
Removed ambiguity
comments when not required
'Message if task tried again'
overwrites general tasks
Tasks can override dropping
when the object is static
Response for taking static
objects reverted to what it
used to be
Cannot hit with static objects
Better ambiguity handling for
default responses
Proper output when trying to
take objects worn by
Shortcut to change colour
changed from Ctrl-C to Ctrl-A
*should* be released. Did you spend all those weeks struggling
with it only to consign it to your dusty hard drive and never let it
see the light of day again. Are you happy that no one will ever
see your game beside yourself. Don’t you want recognition for
your hard work.
There's also the fact that the longer you work trying to make a
game perfect, the less perfect it will become. No one is ever going
to write the perfect game and no matter how good your finished
project is, there will *always* be room for improvement. So what
do you do – go back to the game once it’s finished and rewrite it a
dozen times till you're happy with it. Or just release it.
Release it.
Reason 3 – “I'm worried by what people will think of my
So what's the best way to handle this – don’t release your game
at all, no matter how much work you've put into it. Or go ahead
and release it and *see* what people think about it.
Option 2 wins out for me every time.
It goes without saying that no one wants to release a game that
everyone is going to hate. What we want is to release a game and
then have people fall over themselves telling you how amazing
they thought it was, and years from now (a la “Photopia”) people
will *still* be talking about in awed whispers. Is that sort of thing
going to happen to your game. Who knows. The only way to find
out is to *release it*.
If you're unsure whether your game is good enough or not then
have someone test it for you beforehand.
Reason 4 – “I don’t have time to write a game”
How much time it does take to write a game. About the same as
the length of a piece of string.
Writing games depends a lot on who is writing them: how much
free time they have; how fast they write; whether they're happy to
churn out the first thing that occurs to them or if they're more of
the slow, thoughtful sort; how big the games they're going to write
are; where they get their ideas from…
And so on.
Let’s do a little maths. How big is a fair-sized game. Actually that
question is about as easy to answer as the one with the piece of
string but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that a fair-sized
game is 20 KB (not included sound or graphics) under V4 of
ADRIFT. Now, how long on average does it take to write 1 KB of
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
Hidden routes on map
properly hidden if map
background coloured
Versioning information stored
properly in TAS files
Restriction that variables must
be compared to other
variables now ok
Removed ambiguity issues
when opening/closing objects
'It' passed including prefixes,
not just object name
'put all on X' now works
Must have an object defined if
you select start position in or
on another
Tab selects between Male &
Female at prompt
Spellchecking on task
restriction box
Static object locations properl y
reset between TAS
game. It varies on the person writing the game but let’s agree on
an hour. So in your average month – working on the game once
per day – you could write an entire 20 KB game without too much
trouble at all. Then you spend the next month testing the game,
playing it through to make sure you haven’t made it unfinishable,
ensuring that everything is nicely logical and pleasing.
So a 20 KB game from start to finish takes 2 months. Maybe
some people write slower than others and so 3 months is closer
to the mark, or maybe even 4 months. Agree on 4 months.
At the time of writing there are over 300 members on the ADRIFT
forum. Let’s go on the assumption that only a quarter of them
actually care about writing a game (the total is probably far lower).
If each of those 75 drifters wrote just 1 game every 4 months that
would equate to 225 games per year – a sum greater than the
entire total of ADRIFT games ever written.
Now, 225 seems like a fantastically high amount. Let’s assume
two thirds of them never get finished. That leaves 75 games. This
year there have been 8 full size ADRIFT games released. What
happened to the other 67.
Reason 5 – “I'm not sure *how* to write a game so I've never
Then ask! There's a whole forum-full of people eager and ready to
help. If you have a question, ask it. If you're worried about coming
across as a clueless newbie, don’t be. Everyone was a clueless
newbie at some point. And some still are. No one’s going to bash
the head in of some newbie just for asking a question that they
*probably* should have known anyway.
The above is just a few of the reasons why people don’t seem to
write that many games. I'm sure there are many, many more.
Interview: Eric Mayer questioned by KF
Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for the
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
Failed game intros
Cannibal explains the
Here's some blurb about the intro
that might be of interest!
1918 was intended to be the third
adventure I wrote. It was also to be
pitched into the IF Comp 2003...but
somehow, after months of thought
and planning and very little writing,
the game seemed to lack any
depth and spark. The puzzles were
almost non-existant and I am no
fan of non-puzzle IF. If I want to
read a story then I pick up a book. I
prefer an adventure to feature
elements of both and 1918 wasn't
cutting it. The story was to unfold in
three parts, with each part
overlappi ng. The first part was set
during 1918, where you had to
escape the trenches and find
refuge in nearby woods during a
heavy German counter attack.
Here, you stumble across dozens
of slaughtered men but manage to
save the lives of several of
them. The second part was set to
be in London, during the 1920s,
where you are down on your luck,
drinking and gambling and have to
outwit a criminal gang. This would
have lead you to the third part
where you return to France, during
the 1940s, working as an agent for
British Intelli gence and you find
yourself back in the woods where
you finally face to truth of that
fateful night in 1918. The truth that
it was you who had mistakenl y
opened fire on your own troops.
This is the intro
Outside St.Quentin
Another volley of shells slam into
the trenches, hurling bodies,
spraying flesh and blood.
Nightmarish screams ring through
your ears as you take cover. There
are shouts from your commanding
officers to make ready and prepare
newsletter. I thought that you could provide an insight into not
“merely writing IF”, but also into being a “proper” writer.
Perhaps I could start by simply asking when you started out
writing mystery stories., and to perhaps give a bit of background
on yourself and the stories.
I've always been writing something, but for a long time my fiction
tended to be SF and fantasy. It also tended not to get published.
Actually it had a spotless record of not getting published. So
partially heeding some advice I'd once read, to the effect that ten
years of rejection slips is nature's way of telling you you're not a
writer, I concentrated on essays and articles, with which I had
much better luck.
Mind you, I'd once had a nice rejection note from Ben Bova at
Analog. I wasn't half bad. So when my good half teamed up with
my better half, and co-author, Mary Reed, then I (we) finally sold
something. Mary talked me into writing mysteries with her after
we were married. She'd, on her own, sold to Ellery Queen's
Mystery Magazine, among other places, and that was where we
published our first co-written short story, "The Obo Mystery"
featuring our modern Mongolian detective, Dorj. This was a bit
more than ten years ago.
I had read a lot of mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes to Simenon's
Maigret series and John D. McDonald's Travis McGee, but didn't
know much about the nuts and bolts of planting clues and so
forth. Probably still don't! So I am always very careful, when
asked about my writing, to specify that I am not exactly an
"author" but a "co-author." At any rate, we are closing in on twenty
published short stories now and have four novels in print.
Our novels are set in Constantinople, in the sixth century, a
fascinating period when the classical, pagan world of ancient
Rome was mutating into the Christian, medieval world. They
feature John the Eunuch, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian;
we had written about John in a series of short stories before the
first novel appeared. Given the exotic setting and our liking for the
fantastic, I think these verge on fantasy, or have some of the feel
of fantasy, even though we research very thoroughly and insist on
being accurate in our historical details. The most recent novel,
which appeared in February from Poisoned Pen Press, is FOUR
FOR A BOY. There's also a new story about John in Mike Ashley's
collection The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunits, from
Constable & Robinson in the UK, with a US edition from Carroll &
Graf out soon.
You have made the move from the printed word to interactive
fiction for some stories. How do you decide which is the more
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
for the impending counter attack.
The rain continues to pour down,
soaking you to the bone. Knee
deep in water, you wipe the mud
and tears from your face and, as
the artillery bombardment final ly
ceases, you peer over the top of
the trench.
The night sky is burning...and
beneath the orange glow and
swirling relentless choke of smoke,
there lays a rain streaked land,
chaptered with devastating horrors,
a brutal and hellish cesspit, the
very soil ripped and carved
asunder with miles of dug trenches
and coils of barbed wire. Amongst
the mire and the craters bodies are
sprawled and broken in uniforms
with colours and flags bloodied
beyond recognition. There are
severed limbs to be held up in
glorious triumph and there are
faces half chewed away by rats to
be marked as great sacrifices for a
few feet of rutted land...
German infantry pour across no
man's land, yelling, screaming.
Your gun jammed three days ago
and you have no weapon with
which to fight. Thunder booms and
lightning shreds the rain soaked
night as gunfire erupts from the
British lines and the Kaiser's men
are peppered and shredded.
Explosions crack the night sky and
the ground shudders beneath your
feet as the enemy artillery opens
fire once more. W ave upon wave of
soldiers cross towards the
...you hear the cries to retreat...
Shells continue to pound the British
lines, screeching from the rain
drenched sky, unfurling spli ntered
agony and destruction, without pity,
without remorse, tipping down from
the burning heavens,
bombardment upon bombardment,
death upon death, hour upon hour.
You lift yourself from the mud and
the dirt. There is no one alive.
There is no one left.
Fallen soldiers lie half submerged
in murky water, dead from shrapnel
wounds, dead from starvation,
suitable format and have you ever considered adapting your
stories to IF.
As it happens I discovered IF at an inconvenient time, just as
Mary and I were selling our first novel. My writing hobby suddenly
became part of my paying work. I've been a freelance writer for
almost a decade, doing mostly legal writing, articles for legal
encyclopedias, and the like. Thus, to be a candidate for a game
an idea has first to be simple enough to be a short game which I
might have time to write, and must not be something that I should
be writing for possible publication such as the next mystery novel.
(That sounds like an ADRIFT restriction). That does leave open
any SF and fantasy ideas I have because we've not sold anything
in that field. Since I do like to write SF and fantasy If gives me a
welcome opportunity to do so.
I think almost any idea could be suitable for IF, but you have to
take a different approach. I have adapted some fiction to If. My
first Alan game, my learning game, was a rather silly exploration
of a murdered Roman senator's house and contained some of the
descriptive elements used in our Byzantine stories. (It isn't on the
Archive but can be downloaded from our home page) Then this
summer I took an old ghost story, The Thorn, which had never
found a home, cut it up into location descriptions, objects,
dialogue, narrative, and plugged the bits into the Adrift generator.
It produced a game very quickly, albeit not much of a game.
As if I didn't already know, the experience taught me that a game
is much different from a story. Or should be. The writer has to
cede some control to the player. That's tough to do sometimes,
especially when, like me, you've spent so long learning how to get
control of your stories! I have done games on rails and enjoyed
some done by others, but I don't consider such games the ideal.
An aside here -- making a story into a game can expose flaws in
the logic and motivation. In a story the author can order the
protagonist to, say, go into the dark room alone, but in a game the
player has to be motivated to want to order the protagonist to do
it. If it seems like a silly idea, or there's no reason aside from
advancing the author's desired plot, the player won't necessarily
Stories with a strong visual element are good candidates for If
because players will explore and examine things and read
descriptions and that is easily programmed. In fact, after trying to
teach myself to cut down on description and only give "telling"
details I find it hard sometimes to engage in all the description of
unimportant details If calls for. In If, of course, part of the game is
discovering which details are important. I would some time like to
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
dead from disease.
You vomit, bringing up a paltry
meal from days ago...
Narrow trenches, shrouded in
heavy smoke, slash a broken land
of filthy horrors. Around and inside,
filling your mi nd and ripping at your
soul, are the most ghastly and gut
wrenching screams that you have
ever endured.
You must escape from this
madness, you must flee...
With No Man's Land to the east,
you can head south, southeast,
east or west through the trenches.
If you have an intro or just an
idea you think Drifters might
enjoy, why not send it in to
write a game set in the world of Byzantium, just because I think, if
nothing else, the descriptions of the world would be interesting.
Sixth century Constantinople would be fun to explore.
I remember your early ADRIFT game "Lost" which was going
to be in the Spring 2001 Minicomp, and I thought might have won,
until being hit by one of the earlier ADRIFT bugs. How frustrating
was it when that error message popped up. Those interested can
read a review at
I was so new to Adrift I wasn't surprised. Didn't know it was a bug.
I figured I was bound to get something wrong and that was it! But
I didn't want an unplayable game permanently available as part of
a contest, which is why I withdrew it. Can't see it beating the
entries by DuoDave or Heal Butcher.
It is fair to say that you have a profile in the IF world away
from ADRIFT. Having written an interesting article for Stephen
Granade on "Easy' Interactive Fiction Languages: Languages for
the Non- Programmer", which compares ALAN with ADRIFT, do
you feel that we are still some way from a true beginners system
that is still useful for experienced users.
To be useful to both beginners and experienced users I would
imagine an authoring system would have to feature a GUI that
produced code which could be tweaked. I doubt many real
programmers would want to use a system where you can't, if
necessary, get at some code and I doubt that anyone could
program a GUI that would allow the freedom and flexibility offered
by coding. At some level the maze of menus and windows and
check-off boxes become more complex than the code!
Quest does produce code, but personally I don't like the feel of
either the GUI or the code (or the interpreter) and the system
seems to suffer from the problem where using the GUI is as
difficult as the coding would be. I understand Plugh, the GUI for
Tads2, is still progressing though. A system that produced code
could, I think, be useful even for an experienced programmer, by
allowing the easy but time consuming bulk of a game to be laid
out more quickly.
Something often overlooked in hard/easy discussions is that the
"hard" authoring languages do a lot automatically. For example,
all the attributes that come supplied. In Inform, writing that an
object "has scenery" will automatically make it so it can't be taken
and doesn't show up in the room description. Writing "has
scenery" isn't necessarily harder than finding the appropriate
menu to make something scenery and checking off a box.
So sometimes a GUI will just make "easy" the stuff that's already
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
"easy" in the "hard" systems while the really hard stuff -- well, I
haven't been able to figure out Scurvey Sock Puppet's menu
based conversation for Adrift any better than the menu based
conversation system one for Inform!
This isn't to say Adrift isn't great for beginners (and some of us
are permanent beginners) but I don't see it as being helpful to an
experienced programmer. Mind you, it might be fun to use,
because it is a different writing style. Now, my own ideal system
naturally would be if Adrift spit out Alan code.
I was looking at your "ADRIFT Games Recommendations"
from 2002 on BrassLantern and was wondering if you have any
more recent ADRIFT games that you have liked..
I don't manage to play everything and may have missed some
good ones, but I thought J.J. Guest's TO HELL IN A HAMPER
was a practically perfect little single puzzle game. It's not just a
puzzle though, because the puzzle turns on the highly amusing
character of Mr. Booby and his startlingly capacious overcoat.
Then Tod Watson's UNRAVELING GOD took an on the rails
approach, generally, yet used the game aspect to great effect to
add an extra bit of reader involvement to an already thought-
provoking story. I also enjoyed Cannibal's THE WOODS ARE
DARK. Game play is simple, but enough to feel like a game and
the story and descriptions are quite involving.
So in conclusion I am going to ask the usual what are you
currently working on question, be it IF or static fiction.
Right now we're doing final revisions on the fifth John the Eunuch
mystery, FIVE FOR SILVER, which will be published in spring
2004, meaning that it is probably time to start plotting SIX FOR
GOLD. Aside from the mystery series I have mostly bits and
pieces. Scraps of code in four different languages which are
either abandoned learning exercises or the starts of games
depending on how optimistic I'm feeling. I keep telling myself to
stick to gradually piecing together a larger game, but whenever I
return to my files after a few weeks, or months, I can't recall what
I'd programmed or exactly what the code I wrote was supposed to
do. It isn't just games that suffer this fate. I've been working on a
modern day mystery novel for five years!
Thank you very much for your input, I am sure you will have
provided readers with an interesting insight onto someone less
tied in with ADRIFT.
Review by DavidW
Asyl um by Mel S
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
Asylum begins with you waking (quite predictably) in an asylum.
You have no memories of how you came to be there or even your
own name, although a quick look around your room indicates you
might well be called Mr Tanakian. Wander around the asylum
itself and you'll encounter the other patients but it's clearly not a
large place you're confined in as I only found three others besides
Aslyum is a likeable enough game without ever really being
anything special. It lacks the humour of Mel S' comedy games -
The Evil Chicken Of Doom, Escape From Insanity and Dance
Fever USA - and the ease of use of The Lost Mines but it has a
kind of charm all the same. The conversation system is a nice
idea although as it never seems to change and characters
respond with the same default answer every time you speak to
them it doesn't work that well.
Guess-the-verb strikes in a few places, most notably in the task
involving trying to distract Leroy: a cord was plugged into the wall
which I wasn't able to pull out yet I was able to unscrew -
something that would never have occurred to me if I hadn't been
carrying a screwdriver! There is no hints system in the game
(always a bad thing) although an unintentional one helped me out
a bit. Upon examining a pillow in one of the other rooms I was told
it was empty unlike the one in my own room. This came as quite a
surprise as I hasn't even examined the pillow in my own room at
that stage!
One thing that is usually the bane of Mel S' games - the dreaded
"use object on object" command - was mercifully absent here
which made a refreshing change. Then again, as I spent most of
the game wandering around with an item I was unable to find a
single use for it maybe wasn't such a great thing. At least when an
author uses a similar method for solving puzzles in every game
you tend to expect that sort of thing and be ready for it. When he
suddenly changes and different methods are used, it often
becomes confusing figuring out what those methods are!
Progress is pretty difficult. I came across several points in the
game where I was stuck and no matter what I tried it just didn't
seem to work; obvious things like giving the cross to the guy
called Jesus failed miserably. This isn't a big game so maybe the
author figured that people wouldn't encounter too many problems
with it and hints weren't necessary but I, for one, would have
dearly loved a little guidance somewhere along the way.
Logic: 7 out of 10
Guess-the-verb with the cord was a long way from logical but
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
everything else in the game - at least that I've encountered so far
- was nicely straightforward.
Problems: 6 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
Guess-the-verb reared its ugly head as well as the unintentional
hint with the pillow.
Story: 4 out of 10
No background at all, and just a few short lines telling you the
current situation. Admittedly, a game which begins with the player
not knowing anything about himself would be pretty much ruined if
it came complete with a detailed background but I'm sure there
are better ways to set the scenery than this.
Characters: 5 out of 10
Three other patients in the asylum, as well as a nurse and a
doctor. Leroy is quite interesting and the conversation system a
nice touch but a few changes to what the characters say from
time to time could have made it quite a bit better.
Writing: 5 out of 10
Average for the most part.
Game: 5 out of 10
A likeable enough game with a few rough edges that clearly could
have done with a little more work before the finished version was
Overall: 32 out of 60
Now we move onto the most complicated part of ADRIFT, we start
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
on Tasks. Here the manual introduces us to the different ways to
add a command to our games.
Manual pages 18: Tasks
Tasks allow you to customise your adventures and do things
other than the built in functions within ADRIFT. They allow you to
specify what the player is expected to type, and carry out certain
actions based on this. You can restrict tasks being executed
depending on certain criteria.
To add a task, either select Add > Task from the menus, or click
on the icon. This will bring up the Add a task dialog box.
Task Commands
In the box at the top, What the user must type, you can enter any
number of commands. This is what the player must type in the
game in order for the task towork. Simply click in the box, and
type the command in. If you want to add more than one, press
<enter>, and type another command in. To edit an existing
command, click the arrow to the right of the box, and select the
command you wish to edit. You can then edit the command.
You can override any of the system commands with tasks. For
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
example, if you entered "north" as the command, and you were in
a room which had an exit to the north, assuming all the
restrictions were passed, the task would be executed instead of
moving the Player in that direction. This is useful if you want to
check something before going north, or you wanted to add a more
descriptive message when moving the Player from one room to
another. (See Overriding System Commands for details.)
It’s quite difficult to think of all the possible commands a player
can type in order to complete a specific task – quite often the
player will know what they have to do, just not know the syntax
the game needs to be able to run the task. This is commonly
known as “guess the verb”. To make it easier to define commands
for the user to type, you can put wildcards into the command
string. To do this, simply add an asterix "*" where the player can
enter any text. For example, if the task was "turn the wheel", you
could set the command as "turn *wheel". This would allow the
player to type "turn the wheel", "turn wheel", "turn steering wheel"
etc. in the game. Basically, it makes it far more flexible, as there's
nothing more frustrating knowing what to do, just not know the
exact phrase to make it work.
It can sometimes work better to define the task as, say, "turn *
wheel" - notice the extra space. This guarantees that there will
always be a space after the word "turn" and before the word
"wheel". In the example earlier, it would have accepted the
command "turn swheel". It is also worth noting that by doing this,
the command "turn wheel" would match up, but the space would
in fact be matched twice. You can also put a wildcard before the
command, e.g. “* turn * wheel” so that it would accept something
(or nothing – the initial space will be removed if necessary) before
the command, so long as it’s separated by a space.
You can add commands to refer to any object, character, number
or variable by using References.
Advanced Command Construction
Quite often, wildcards will allow the task to execute if the player
types in a command, but it can sometimes be too vague. For
example, the command “get * apple * box” would allow the player
to type “get the apple from the box”, “get apple then look in the
box”, “get all except the apple from the box” etc. You can see that
this could lead to some quite misleading and unintended task
To give a different approach from wildcards, you can use
advanced command construction. This allows you to define
certain required keywords, then have other optional words and
InsideADRIFT Issue 11 November 2003
allow choices between words.
There are three sets of special symbols required for advanced
command construction. These are:
• Square brackets, i.e. “[“ and “]”. These enclose anything that is
required in the command.
• Curly brackets, i.e. “{“ and “}”. These enclose anything that is
optional in the command.
• Forward slash, i.e. “/”. This separates any choices within the
Symbols are recursive, so for example, you could have an
optional section within a required section of the command.
An example would clarify this to make it easier to understand. In
the example above, you might have a command like: You can see
here, from the example commands above, the only one that
would succeed is “get the apple from the box”
Clicking on the small question mark button to the right of the
command box will give a summary of what you can enter as a
[get/take/pick up] {the} [{green} apple from] {the} {large}
© Campbell Wild, May 2002
Information is copied and pasted from the manual and while every effort is
made to be accurate, there are no guarantees that it is error free.
© 2003 Edited by KF. Please send any contributions or
suggestions to kf@kfadrift.org.uk