May 1, 2012 5:00 AM | Konstantinos Dimopoulos / Gnome
Inform 7 is being described as a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. Shockingly, it does exactly what it says on the tin (and quite a bit more), while simultaneously being a truly powerful tool for creating intricate pieces of interactive fiction on most platforms you'd care to mention.
Inform 7 runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and most probably anything with a keyboard. It has after all been the tool of choice for countless text adventure creators (including the brilliant Emily Short) and more than a few educators. Oh, and it's absolutely free to use too.
Impressively, Inform 7 is much more than a stable and easy to use platform to recreate Zork and come up with something to impress your friends with. It's a tool with an excellent interface, one of the most intuitive scripting languages I've ever encountered and enough power to handle everything from physics and advanced AI to rich parsers and maps. Anything text based is possible, even if -and that's a worst case scenario- you have to download one of the myriad extensions already available.
Adding maps, verbs, characters and even pictures or sound-effects is also pretty straightforward, as is going for a multiple choice or point-and-click interface. Besides, even if you do get stuck on technical matters, the amazing community is always there to help.
Now, to give you an example of just how elegantly sensible Inform 7 really is... Let's suppose you wanted to create a room called Gallows that happened to lie just north of a Nursery School. This is what you'd have to type-in:
Gallows is a room.
Nursery School is a room.
Gallows is north of Nursery School.
Simple, isn't it? And please do trust me when I say writing such descriptions is an incredibly enjoyable, creative and at times addictive process. Inform was, after all, designed by a poet/mathematician with writers in mind. People who want to tell interactive stories. Or, well, come up with ridiculously tough puzzles that would put the Babel Fish one to shame.
Mind you, some of the more complex stuff Inform 7 can handle can be quite tricky to employ, and actually finishing a full-blown game will definitely take time. That's why I can't help but recommend (especially for people that haven't authored or scripted i-f before) the excellent Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform 7 book. It will not only help you with the technical side of things, but actually provide sound game design advice.