Thursday, 27 July 2017

Leadlight Gamma now working on Sierra (macOS 10.12)

In February 2017 I reported that my horror IF Leadlight Gamma wasn't working in Sierra.

Just this week I caught up with one of Andrew Plotkin's updated builds of Gargoyle which has eliminated that problem.

So now Leadlight Gamma is playable pretty much across the board again, including in Sierra, and I've also done a general refresh of all the links, Read Me's and downloads.

Leadlight Gamma :

Leadlight Gamma Desktop screenshot


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Six goes to release 5

I've just done a bit of maintenance on my 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition parser game Six, resulting in version five.


Did you know that Six, a game suitable for all ages about children playing hide and seek at a birthday party, came second in its year and won the Best Implementation award at the 2011 XYZZYs? It behooves me to remind you of these things. You can visit the slightly refurbished Six website and/or the game's IFDB page for info, propaganda and downloads.

Now I'll tell you what's changed in version five of Six. Summarily, the game content itself hasn't changed, so if that's all you care about, you can stop reading.

THE CONFIGURATION STAGE

I made version five primarily so that I could remove any 2011-centric tech talk from the game's configuration stage. It's now got a more general outlook that means it can sail gracefully into the future, no longer telling people to do or not do things that may only have been correct in 2011. (Those things were important at the time. I was trying to get people to play the game in a fashion ideal to me during the Interactive Fiction Competition.)

If you ever pine to be pushed around like it's 2011, don't worry, the IF Archive will always carry the original version of the game. Better yet, now that the archive can store multiple past versions of games, you could just retreat slightly to version four, thereby benefiting from all the bugfixes and improvements that had occurred since version one while still experiencing the 'classic' configuration stage of 2011!

THE GAME MANUAL

To accompany the config stage changes, I've tweaked pages four and five of the PDF game manual to match. Page four of the manual now has a hyperlink to the Six website – a site I will try to never, ever move – where I can maintain a simple-as-I-can-make-it interpreter download grid. It's a kind of triage: Just read through the three options until you find one that matches your OS and feature concerns. This aspect of playing parser games has not gotten any easier. This is why such a page is helpful.

THE VOLUME LEVELS!

The default volume setting in Six is now 3 out of 5 (for both music and FX) instead of 5 out of 5.

Summarising why I made this change from under my music producer's hat: Some players have reported that they experienced the soundtrack as being louder than they expected it to be. Such a judgement only exists in relation to how loud they perceive other sounds they're familiar with to be at the same volume dial position.

Part of Six's loudness is down to the soundtrack having few elements in it. As an example: In the world of recording, a single violin playing can easily be perceived as louder than the whole of Metallica playing, at one volume dial position, if the violin and Metallica were both recorded to peak at digital zero (beyond which only distortion is recorded) and delivered that way to listeners. Six peaks at digital zero, and though it wasn't made with an explicit goal of loudness, its few synths are filling the same volume bandwidth as, say, a pop or rock artist's whole band.

The second issue is that, given the nature of the game and the cute-leaning music, people just expect this kind of music to not emerge too loudly. We don't blast children with loud music (do we?!).

So I'm using Inform's volume amplification stage to moderate the default volume of Six to a lower level. You can still turn it up and down inside of your IF interpreter within the same range as before. The upshot is that for someone playing for the first time, the music won't debut as loudly as it used to.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

La Crapule (The Villain) detective adventure game – new on the Apple II

French parser-driven detective adventure game The Villain (La Crapule) was originally published on the Macintosh by Froggy Software in 1987. Thanks to Brutal Deluxe Software, it's just been released commercially for the Apple II in both English and French versions.

La Crapule Apple II title page
La Crapule Apple II title page
I haven't played The Villain yet. I'm very likely to, being both an Apple II head and an IF head, but Brutal Deluxe are mostly publicising the game in Apple II circles. That's why I figured I'd share its PR info here in my IF blog.

First, here come the press release and purchase links. For now, the game is being sold only on physical Apple II media. I asked Antoine of Brutal Deluxe if a digital (disk image) will be sold and he said probably, but that there is no definite plan. You'll also note that the press release promises that the game engine will soon be available separately:

"You sip your daily Kir in the dilapidated place that serves as your detective's office when the phone starts to ring. Your reputation as a detective has already crossed the boundaries of the Republic district, yet a little work would not harm your bank account.

The anxious voice of an elderly woman echoed in the handset: "Sir, I need your help, I am the Countess of La Fêlure, and my husband and I live in a manor house at the end of the town. We live there with our servants and our cousins, the Dumoulin de La Fêlure. I am really worried because my husband has disappeared for two days...

Would you like to go to investigate, please? As soon as you find my husband, wait for me in the living room and try to solve that mystery. I will be able to show myself generous!"

Of course you accept and you are on the way to the manor of La Fêlure to elucidate the mystery of the disappearance of the Count..."

La Crapule was writen by Jean-Louis Le Breton for the Macintosh only in 1987. It was released by Froggy Software, owned by Jean-Louis Le Breton. Jean-Louis is the author of the first Apple II adventure games in French and has released more than ten games through Froggy Software.

Brutal Deluxe Software is proud to make it available for the Apple II computer line in French or English with the agreement (blessing ;-)) of Jean-Louis. The first three signed copies by Jean-Louis will be auctioned on eBay. We have special offers for the KansasFest and Apple II Festival France attendees.

The game engine is powerful, you can enter a full sentence, eg. "I go north", "I talk to the Countess". There are more than ten rooms, plenty of characters, the dictionary is huge and the number of play hours is high.

The game engine development kit will soon be available through the same channel. Let your imagination wander to create your adventure games in text only or with pictures: from 40-col text, 80-col, GR, DGR, HGR (mono/color where supported), DHGR (mono/color where supported) to SHR pictures.

Get your own copy at http://www.brutaldeluxe.fr/store/

Jean-Louis Le Breton
Antoine Vignau & Olivier Zardini

The Google English translation of Froggy software's French wikipedia page says that their goal was to 'sell French, amusing, and out-of-the-ordinary games at a price of about FRF 150', and that the company's choice of Froggy as a name (an English word connoting Frenchness) was a deliberate one in the context of how Apple II software was sold and perceived in France in its day.

There are two YouTube videos showing the game starting up in the Sweet16 Apple IIGS emulator and a few commands being entered. One video is for the French version and the other for the English version. The game looks attractive but in terms of showing the quality of the parser or much gameplay, these 60 seconds videos are not very helpful. I figure their main purpose is just to show the tech of this Apple II version of the game:

Link to the French version video
Link to the English version video

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Parser Power Summer Double Sale!

I've teamed up with Andrew Plotkin for an itch.io summer sale which has been going for a few days and which ends in 4 days, 0 hours and 59 minutes as of me publishing this post:

The Parser Power Summer Double! (sale!)

For US$9.00 you get Hadean Lands (sci-fi) by Andrew Plotkin, you Leadlight Gamma (horror) by me, you get a hi-res version of the Hadean Lands map and you get a Bandcamp voucher for the Leadlight Gamma soundtrack. That's more than 50% off both games plus the extras.

If you're not familiar with Hadean Lands, the non-mine game in this bundle Where have you been for the past two years? Hiding under a rock on Mars? Waiting for someone to randomly turn that rock over when there are about a zillion rocks on Mars, and they're all the same colour? If so, your behaviour was fool behaviour. You were bound to remain stuck under that rock, unaware of the existence of the game Hadean Lands, unaware of its nature. That's everything that was wrong with your behaviour.

Now that I've thoroughly described the non-mine game of this bundle, here's the link to the sale page:

THE PARSER POWER SUMMER DOUBLE SALE LINK

It's an attractive page and I'll miss it when it's gone. itch.io make it very easy to set this kind of thing up.

Names for this sale we rejected include

  • Hadean Light
  • Leadlands
  • Got Alchemy?
  • Literacy Night Out
  • The Sinful Schoolgirls of Hades
  • Where's My Summer? I Live in the Southern Hemisphere


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Leadlight Gamma news and CYOA extension news

Doing maintenance rounds on my websites, I noticed that the Leadlight Gamma homepage was out of date and displaying incorrect info I'd forgotten was there. I've fixed this, and updated the game's sites in general.

  • There was an old warning on the site about problems you might face getting the game onto your iOS device. That warning was temporary and is now irrelevant and gone. iFrotz downloads the game just fine.
  • There was a lack of warning on the site about trying to play the game on a Mac running macOS Sierra. There is now a warning, because the game doesn't work in Sierra. There are fatal problems with both Glulx interpreter options. Gargoyle broke in Sierra and the unofficial patched version hangs when booting Leadlight Gamma, probably because of the graphics. Lectrote gets stuck on two of the game's graphic features, the image gallery and the full screen map. I could potentially say, "Don't look at the gallery or the full screen map and it won't hang," but if I then also have to say, "Plus there's no audio in this version," it feels obviously to me like I just shouldn't be selling something with so many shortcomings to the Sierra user.

The Sierra issues are vaguely depressing given that the game was brand new just two years ago, but interpreter maintenance is beyond my power.

My personal focus will be moving to my music-making for the next period of time, so my IF projects (the CYOA extension for Inform and the actress game) will mostly be going on the backburner for the same period of time.

In January this year I started to build out standalone versions of the demos from my CYOA extension, including the Ryan Veeder-endorsed spinoff Captain Piedaterre's Blunders, but doing so revealed to me there were still important fixes that needed to be made to the fundamental extension code. So it was a useful exercise for me, but obviously one with a less fun result than it could have had. Mostly I hope that the extension doesn't slide into the pits of technical incompatibility or obsolescence before I can I revisit it.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

IFComp 2016: "Whoops!". And other updates.

"Whoops!"

My plan to start reviewing IFComp games in a more targeted fashion was obviously a great one. The problem was it immediately fell down when I passed what time I’d hoped to spend on it to action in the categories of music and ‘life stuff’.

In retrospect, it was dumb of me to start out reviewing in a random order when there were so many entries in the comp. A moment’s planning would have made me realise I’d no chance of getting far into the catalogue overall. The trouble is, reviewing at random is really fun. I remember that from the years when circumstances allowed me to review everything (or close to it) to a certain personal standard, and in a mostly random order dictated by the IFComp site.

Maybe I just won’t be able to do that again, especially if the number of entries continues to rise. So I think I need to say to myself, ‘Right, I’ve had that particular fun in the past, I don’t need to try to recreate it,’ and change to a more targeted reviewing tack next time I come at this.

So, congratulations to Robin Johnson for winning with Detectiveland, and then to all the other entrants for everything else. Also, I know a few people were keen for me to review their IF, and I didn't get to it. I will eventually, but just because it looked like I was probably going to get to it during the comp and I didn't, I'm sorry.

American Financial Restoration Sale

I eventually noticed there was this Black Friday sale thing going on in the USA. If I’d been more on the ball, I might have taken advantage and put Leadlight Gamma on sale again. Instead I was too sluggish on the uptake, so I think I’ll just wait ’til Christmas or something. This way I also get to say I’ve avoided participating in yet more cultural behaviour doled out by Americans.

Works in Progress

My CYOA Extension for Inform 7 has been coming along really well. I need some third party tech put in place before I'll be able to finish it.

I continue to gather notes for my mystery IF project. The phrase ‘mystery IF project’ makes it sound like I’ve talked about it in this blog before, but I haven’t. What is it? Not telling! Yet, anyway.

I’ve been getting annoyed at myself over the past year for losing too many good ideas for the project. When I say lose, I mean that I didn’t write them down or type them up at the moment I had them. I think my lack of vigilance came from the feeling that their graceless accumulation in a few text files was amounting to a disorganised idea splat for the future that would probably annoy me in the future. How would I sort, find or string together relevant bits from the splat? And there are different types of bits in there. Dialogue riffs, character ideas, incident ideas, structure ideas, etc.

In response to these note-organising problems, I downloaded and am trying out the writing software Scrivener. (Interjection: Holy crap, it's on sale for Black Friday! I must buy now! Buy Buy Buy!) I find it’s working well. It allows me to store all my notes, research materials and prose for a piece in a single document in ways that make it easy to index, connect and rearrange that material. I expect I will produce the text of the IF project in Scrivener and then port it into my CYOA extension. It turns out that I can actually make a pretty direct correlation between blobs of text in Scrivener and choice nodes in a game.

An incidental bonus is that using Scrivener is looking like a good way to write manuals, too, and I expect to have to write a manual for the CYOA extension. I may even be able to publish it directly as an e-book from Scrivener.

Monday, 17 October 2016

IFComp 2016: It's a third of the way through.

IFComp is about one third of the way through and I've reviewed one sixth of the entries. I started suddenly this year (ie no thoughts even the day before about reviewing entries) and defaulted to doing what I did the first time I reviewed IFComp, which was in mimicry of what everyone else was doing – trying to review everything. I review partially for all of me, authors and reviewing (judgement).

Reviewing everything used to be more doable because there were far fewer entries. Now there are almost 60, and pausing to take stock of what I'm doing, I think that continuing to adhere strictly to my randomised playlist and then just stopping suddenly when the comp ends with a big, randomly determined unplayed/unreviewed list remaining is not going to satisfy me. Aiming to be satisfied is a carrot that helps you keep reviewing at speed, especially in any kind of time fight.

So I'm going to break off the randomised list and prioritise playing and reviewing more things I expect I want to play and review. In reality this makes little difference to onlookers because they haven't seen my list and they don't know what I want to play and review. It probably favours returning entrants, since there are a lot of authors whose second+ game I want to check out because I liked something they did before.

Maybe it's more useful to list a few things I'm deprioritising or know I won't review:

  • Where someone entered two games and I know it's them because they didn't disguise themselves with more silly pseudonyms, I'll only review one, just to spread reviews around.
  • Steampunk games are deprioritised because I just don't like steampunk. I'm still interested in playing Felicity Banks's alt Australia game because I'm Australian, but I give no commitment right now. I promise nothing!
  • I'm not reviewing Rite of Passage because I helped test it, and re: Slicker City, as ASchultz is a friend of mine I'll probably hold on his game until after the comp.
  • I'm not interested in Manlandia. And I think I am probably not interested in This is My Memory… based on other reviews. But the latter is also short.