On Programming

Yeah, sorry guys, still no new IF reviews from me — I’ve been using my spare time to work on my own IF project.

About which, here’s something interesting that happened: I’ve implemented this cat, named Frobozz, who wanders randomly around the house that the game largely takes place in. The problem I was having was that my pathfinding code doesn’t take closed doors into account (I tried, but doing so caused him to not want to travel through open doors either).

So, for example, if Frobozz tried to go east and the door in that direction was closed, he’d bounce off, and you’d see:

Frobozz saunters off to the east.

You hear a jingle, and look down to see that Frobozz has wandered into the room.

Less than ideal.

The solution I arrived at, with my limited knowledge of Inform 7? I implemented a second, invisible cat, named Shadow. When Frobozz wants to go somewhere, Shadow tries it first, and if he ends up still in the same room then Frobozz doesn’t bother trying.

My point basically is that for me, the most satisfying part of programming is when an utterly insane solution to a problem totally works.

IF Comp ’09 Review: Interface

Interface? But I’ve only just met ‘er!

Interface was written by Ben Vegiard. Disclaimer and review list.

Non-spoiler summary: No bugs, very few typos. A solid and cute little game.

Spoilers after the picture of… Man, I dunno. “Interface” doesn’t give me much to work with in terms of choosing pictures. I guess I’ll just look for something funny…

Here’s a picture of a dog smoking a pipe. I found it on my desktop and I have no idea where it came from.


Hm. My guess is that Uncle Floyd has invented the world’s best electric chair, and this is my out-of-body experience as I die, a charred and smoking skeleton.

…ooh, well, I was close, but it’s even weirder than that. Well allrighty then. I hope my body is being properly taken care of while I’m out of it. If I wake up with a load of embarrassing tattoos I’ll be pissed.

Almost magically, you digest the ASCII characters XYZZY, break them into their binary counterparts, run them through several algorithms, and find that the only fruits of your analysis is the phrase: “Nothing Happens.”

Heh, nice.

>x me
You cannot see much of your own body as whatever is serving as your eyes is limited in its movements.  You assume yourself to be about 4 feet in height based on what is at eye level with you.  You can, however, see that your body is made of metal, some of which is certainly scrap originally intended for other uses.  The portions that you can see are basically symmetrical forming a boxy four-sided pyramid .  Each of the four faces of the pyramid has an arm-like extension with a gripper mechanism at the end.  These grippers are small and not very flexible, but allow simple manipulations.

Interesting! I’m feeling enthusiastic, so far. Am I limited to carrying four items, due to the number of arms? (Turns out yes. I am simultaneously impressed by the verisimilitude, and annoyed by the restriction. (Though it turned out to not be particularly cumbersome.))

Enthusiastic, that is, except for the little clock on the status bar. I really hope this isn’t a timed game. I like to play games in a leisurely, exploratory fashion; being forced to get stuff done in a certain amount of time really drains the fun out of it for me. (Afterwards: I don’t think it was timed, or anyway if it was I got it right first try without noticing. Whew!)

I’m seeing some minor text errors here and there… a misued “it’s”, “a keys”, and so on. For the most part everything seems well-written and well-implemented, though. I particularly note that the author took the time to replace the standard parser error messages with custom ones, which is quite nice.

You can see property tage and a pyramid shaped harness here.

>x tage
You see nothing special about property tage.

Huh. Property tags, maybe? Shouldn’t they have something written on them, saying whose property it is, or something? Unimplemented items are more of a shock than usual in a game where everything else works fine. It’s also weird to have to deliberately mistype the typoed item name, in order to interact with it.

Woot, I’ve won. That was a pretty easy, friendly little game. No great jewel of IF, but it’s competent and cute. If only all the “Author’s First Game” entries the comp gets were up to this standard.



So Machinarium is goddamn gorgeous. It’s quite a good game, too — loads of character, solid, reasonable puzzles, great music (particularly the tune when you get the guys pictured here their instruments back). Better game reviewers than myself have written reviews already, so I’ll just point you to one of those. But seriously, if you’re into adventure games, you owe it to yourself to play this. Every single person who’s been reading this blog this month because of the IF Comp should be buying this game right now.

IF Comp ’09: The Believable Adventures of an Invisible Man

Machinarium is out! Wheee!

Well, nearly out. I pre-ordered it, though, so they emailed me an early download link. Since I’ve got some time to kill while it downloads, I guess I’ll try another IF here.

Non-Spoiler summary: Well-implemented, though some handling of implicit actions would be much nicer; no bugs that I saw. Lots of character. But it’s hard. Maybe not all the way to unfair, but you can definitely see it from here. If you don’t have an excellent instinct for IF puzzles it’s going to be rough going.

The Believable Adventures of an Invisible Man is by Hannes Schueller. Disclaimer thingy.

Spoilers after the only work-safe image of a girls’ locker room I could find.


Nobody has ever recognized your genius! Now you’ve proven them all wrong – and you’ll have your revenge on them! Yes, revenge… the only thing you can think of right now. Revenge. Revenge! REVENGE!


>x me
You can only see what you’re wearing – with nothing inside.

Already? I haven’t drunk the potion (in the test tube (on the workbench)) yet. Maybe I’m naturally invisible, and I’ve made a potion to make me even invisibler?

Actually, from looking around, I guess I drank it already. I feel like there’s been an opportunity for dramatic text and more scenery-chewing missed here.

>turn on computer
(the computer)
You don’t have time to watch porn right now.

I guess watching internet porn would be kind of dumb if you’re invisible and there’s girls’ locker rooms to hang around in. It would be like… like a… like a professional spelunker playing Adventure? …man, that analogy was weak. I’m kind of tired.

Like God sitting around playing The Sims?

>x students
(the students)
They look as if they’re actually enjoying being outside. Perverted scum!

I know, right?!

Secretary’s Office
This is supposed to be a office? It’s so clean and tidy you’re wondering how anyone could possible get any work done here!

Damn, it’s like this game was written just for me.

…Man. Life sucks without pockets. This is some weaksauce invisibility potion.

>put badge in mouth
That can’t contain things.

Dammit! (Yes, I tried “nature’s pocket” as well.)

It seems like I need to get rid of this creepy guy and the students, so I have a clear path from home to the university to float my non-invisible inventory along. But I seem to be missing a verb or something.

…Ah. Huh. Okay, thanks, walkthrough. I guess that’s fair enough.

Of course, having resorted to the walkthrough, I ended up basically just playing from the walkthrough from that point on. This is a difficult game, and unfortunately, having played from the walkthrough makes it hard to judge if it’s difficult in a fair way or not. I do know that most of the solutions are things that I probably would not have thought to do. RUB CHEMICALS ON ME, for instance, is a definite guess-the-verb.

On the whole, it’s an all-right game. It’s definitely got character. I can’t recommend it to the easily-frustrated, though.