Halloween and progress report
Perhaps you read that with a detached, urbanely ironic skepticism. Or not. Maybe Twitter can't tolerate that much irony. Who knows. Anyhow, last Monday, I opened up my HL design notes file. I brushed the dust and dinosaur vertebrae off it and read through. Here's what I quickly realized:
- There are way too many ideas in this file. My notion of what should go into this game was, let's say, overambitious.
- However, the ideas that are coalesced into *puzzles* and *plot* are fine. (Except for that thing about airlocks. That isn't going to fly.)
- Thus, I must throw out 80% of the unattached ideas, and use the rest to fill in the gaps in what I've got. And then I'll have a design.
- True, there are a lot of gaps. But there are plenty of ideas to fill them.
- Geez, this is a complicated puzzle structure. No wonder I bogged down before, trying to fill in the gaps.
- To the bat-cave!
Er, that last should read: I need a complexity management tool! So I quickly wrote one: PlotEx, a Python script for exploring puzzle plot constraints.
This is not an IF creation tool, specifically. It just lets you express your puzzle constraints in a simple way: what needs to happen before what, what requires what tools, and so on. Then it computes all the consequences of the scenario; it shows you what states can and cannot be reached. You can try variations like "what if the player never solves *that* puzzle?" or "what if the player has an extra invisibility potion?" Basically, it tells you whether your game is solvable, or whether parts of it are solvable too soon.
I've written a whole big article about PlotEx, plus documentation, so I won't go into further detail here. Bonus example: the plot logic of Enchanter rendered in PlotEx. Take a look if you think it might be useful to you.
Has it been useful to me? Heck yes. I have now filled in many gaps, and I have a much better idea of what elements I can put where without breaking HL. Furthermore, I can keep testing this; I can write unit tests for the game logic, effectively.
Of course, you might say I would have made more progress if I hadn't written up a whole big article plus documentation. Maybe. But this is how us geeks work.
In other news -- or rather, the news I started with: Meanwhile has been sent off to App Store review. If nothing goes wrong, it will be available *Tuesday, November 8th* (slightly earlier in Eastern climes!)
Happy Hallows, or whatever you do. (I watched the Anti-Morris.)
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