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ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

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ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

Postby rotter » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:33 pm

As I’m advertising an ADRIFT 5 game as well as an Inform 7 one in my sig block I was ask for any thoughts/comparisons I might have to offer of the two systems. If you asked me this a month ago you would have got a very different answer though.

As an old Quill user it was very easy to take to ADRIFT 4 originally. I found it very stable and so easy to use from day one. I think I let some of the spin of how difficult V5 was put me off using it, also I fell out of love with being a Drifter (but not ADRIFT) for a long time. So it has taken me awhile to get back to Driftering again.

The Intro comp is my first taste of V5 in anger. In general terms I like what I find. I do not think starting to use V5 is as straightforward as using V4 though. To make it work effectively you need to get your head around the new folders, properties, tasks, text overrides to name but a few. Understand the different type of tasks and the way they work is critically important – if you want to create anything other than a V4 game but using V5. But once you do it is brilliant. I love the way you can group like things together – everything in one location for example in one folder (if you want). Although ordering really needs to be sorted, still too much is in the order of creation and not alphabetically.

My first V4 game was Ticket to No Where which went into the Summer Comp of 2004 - 10 locations. “The Blank Wall” will only have four but has been created in a lot less time than “Ticket” but is already a more stable beast. In my prime I could create one of my better products such as Unauthorised Termination somewhere between 4 to 6 months depending on complexity. I now believe I could do the same with V5, with a little more practice.

V5 suffers with clicking though. I’ve found again that you spend a lot of time click clicking on things. Click to open, click on tabs, click on this and that and so on. Adding things like restrictions and actions is still a fairly time consuming process – involving lots of clicking.

The forum is starting to be a good source of information and the wiki is a great idea. But we need more good coding examples and things like recipe books. These are all things which helped me pick up I7. Obviously V5 is new and it takes time to build up the background documentation. But, more context sensitive help in V5 would be a considerable help. I think that is what has held me back the most with “Blank Wall”.

So what of I7?

The learning curve for a non-programmer like me is immense, no matter what they claim on the forums. It takes time. It seems to take forever! I managed to port Pathway to Destruction but it took longer to port than it did to create in the first place; at least three times as long. Also the advantage Inform has over ADRIFT is its great flexibility. But for me this has been one of the downsides, far too many ways of doing things. It is not always easy to know which one is the best method to use.

The I7 version of “Again and Again” has been in production for years and is still not finished. It was planned for one IFComp after another, then Spring Thing and so on. Probably ready for 2013 but I wouldn’t make any bets on that.

It has less clicking than ADRIFT though and more typing. Far easier to copy blocks of text around and make quick modifications to it. You can copy blocks out into a text editor and make copy/replace changes etc and then copy it back. Not easy to get at the logic of ADRIFT in the same way (although the new drag and drop is brill). So moving I7 code within the game and between games is quick and simple.

You do seem to spend your life in I7 looking for a missing ; or . or missed end if. The only time you seem to get this in V5 is the odd missed square bracket used in a general task or perhaps a % on a variable. This is an important point I think, the ability to break the game is easier in I7 than V5.

Yes, I know I7 is a mighty beast. It is capable of all sorts of exciting stuff. If you use it correctly it creates very solid adventures and the non-windows lot love it. Can V5 match the soildness of I7's parser? Only time will tell.

Now an interesting thought. Did using Inform7 help with me picking up V5? I think it actually did help. Many of the concepts are now very similar although implemented very differently.

These are my thoughts on it so far. To be honest I'm now a V5 convert, I love it.
Currently working on "The Blank Wall" in ADRIFT 5 and "Again and Again" in Inform 7.
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Re: ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

Postby David Whyld » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:31 pm

I tried Inform 7 myself a few years back. To begin with, I was very impressed with it, but less so the more I used it. Mainly 'cos its claim to 'natural language' didn't really hold true once you got past the very basics. Being able to type "the train is a room" and it created a room called "the train" was seriously cool, and also remarkably simple and straightforward. I can dig that kind of natural language because it is natural. However, when I tried to implement a conversation, or an event, the natural side of things just went out of the window. In the end, I came back to ADRIFT. And yes, the missing ";" and "." in Inform 7 quickly drove me to frustration as no matter careful you are, it's so easy to put an extra ";" or "." without realising.. Not to mention the confusing error messages which generally said things like "It looks like you've made an error. It's somewhere in this bit of text which is 15 screens long. Or maybe that text over there. It's happened because of some unspecified thing you've done wrong. Good luck finding it."

Griping aside, I liked the manual being part of the program. I didn't like how confusing the manual was, and why it had to call chapters by names that often didn't relate to what they contained (or so it seemed to me at the time), but the fact that the manual was build into the program was a huge time saver. As well as the recipes and code samples and the like. ADRIFT could really benefit from something similar.

Of course, I'm still planning to use ADRIFT 4 for the foreseeable future, but I'm interested in seeing where V5 goes. It would certainly benefit from emulating (sounds better than copying) a few things from Inform 7.
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Re: ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

Postby ralphmerridew » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:22 pm

I think that ADRIFT 5 will be badly hampered by the fact that it's trying to copy some of the high-level features of the Tier 1 languages, while not copying the low-level foundation those features are built upon.

For example, one change http://www.adrift.co/cgi/adrift.cgi?pag ... ugid=18421 was to make Character.held recursive. Doing this required Campbell to add features to the ADRIFT Runner.

A while back I posted a silly example "Insecurity Area". http://www.adrift.org.uk/forum/viewtopi ... =30#p85089 . It involves various recursive-like searches (look through open containers for a dangerous object, look through any container for a metal object, look through non-lead (or open lead) containers for a dangerous object). It's possible to do those because Inform has a powerful core.

(I can go into more depth about the technical aspects of this if anybody's interested.)
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Re: ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

Postby Driftwood » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:24 am

I've tried Inform 7 as many others have, and found as was already mentioned, the so-called ease of use due to the use of 'standard phrases', soon collapsed when you wanted to do something a bit more advanced, so to speak. I've been round the houses a bit, trying many other IF creators and having found them lacking and came back to Adrift, which I found to be more comfortable to get on with, although having not spent nearly enough time learning all the advanced features my adventures seem to fall flat on their face and quite often are abandoned after the initial enthusiasm of starting a new game with all good intentions. V5 is very powerful and has terrific scope for many complex actions, but getting one's head round it is a different matter.
I tend to have two or three games in progress, and experimentally add newly learnt features to each one to get a deeper understanding of this huge game engine.
Getting back to Inform 7, yes, if you can cope with the syntax headaches you can write some stunning adventures, but Adfift 5 has many things under it's bonnet that makes implementing things just a little bit easier, but you might have to dig around a bit.
I would say that Adrift 5 is the better of the two, without a doubt.
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Re: ADRIFT5 vs Inform7?

Postby ralphmerridew » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:25 pm

I did notice that I was focusing more on properties of the games produced, while everybody else is focusing more on the making of the games. I feel like I'm the only one who looks under the hood while everybody else is focused on just the appearance of the dashboard and seating.

The kind of game that you're planning on making is relevant and needs to be brought up. Imagine a good storekeeper being asked what the best camera is. The answer for a customer who wants to do wildlife photography (telephoto lenses, high speed, and such are all crucial) will be different from that for a customer who just wants to take photos of the grandchildren at Christmas.

(Also, I get the feel that Campbell put most of his effort into designing Developer, and Runner was just something that matched that. I think that if he'd put a decent effort into designing Runner, such as understanding why Zcode, Glulx, and Tcode are done the way they are, many problems could have been avoided, while not affecting the things the drifters like about ADRIFT. Adding the v4 battle system to I7 would probably be a weekend's work; text which is displayed only once can be added to any string, and that's been possible for years. It's probably still possible to fix this by junking the current Runner and replacing it competely.)
Bloodhounds can make you laugh and cuss in the same breath. They are endearing, faithful, and can sling drool ten feet in any direction. -- Virginia Lanier
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