Interactive Fiction WIP Progress Report

I’m working on a project for this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition (IFComp 2010).  It’s one that I started as kind of a small palate-cleanser after last year’s Comp, intended to be a quickie adventure for my son.  As I worked through the idea and setting, however, I realized that there was more there than I was planning on implementing, and I reevaluated the scale of the project.

The result is my current work in progress (still nameless for now).  I’ve been working on it almost since I submitted last year’s entry, aside from a couple of breaks, and I’m happy to report that I’ve completed implementation of the last puzzles and the ending sequence, at least in skeletal form.  Much of the early game is more completely implemented, but getting the “bones” of the rest of the game laid down means that I don’t have to worry too much about infrastructural issues any more, and can concentrate on finishing the writing and improving the polish.

I’m very relieved to be at this stage; I pushed hard to get here over the past month and am happy that I achieved this.  I can hear you saying “But Matt, it’s the middle of July!  Why are you worked up about completing your game when you have two and a half months left until the Comp submission deadline?!?”

Well, there are several reasons.  First, with a baby in the house that’s almost exactly as old as my WIP, plus two other young kids and a wife I enjoy spending time with, getting time to work on the project is not easy.  I’ve used almost the entire amount of my free time since the last Comp (except for a Dragon Age break) to get here, and I’ve needed it.  I know that finishing the rest of the game in time is still going to require focused effort, especially when school starts back up in the fall.

Second, I have a much better idea of what goes into creating a finished, polished game than I did last year.  For Grounded in Space, I didn’t give myself enough time for development, for learning the tools, or (most importantly) for testing.  This year, even with the game scaffolding implemented end-to-end, I still have the following left to do (in roughly the order they need to be accomplished):

  • Enhancing the in-game tutorial
  • Fixing some known game-derailing bugs
  • Write out the ending sequences in full
  • Test and enhance the default message modifications
  • Implement some additional short scenes and interactive dialogue
  • Review my keyword implementation to ensure it’s consistent and useful
  • Perform object testing a la Juhana’s Object Response Tests
  • Alpha testing
  • Revise my writing
  • Test compatibility on various interpreters and platforms
  • Set up Quixe-specific modifications required for proper keywording and exit-lister display
  • Do cover art and a blurb
  • Beta testing and bug fixing

So no, I’m not resting on my laurels having gotten to this point.  If anything, getting this far has only permitted me to lift my head up and see how far away the finish line still is.

Wish me luck — I’m going to need it!  And for all the other authors this year — both returnees and first-timers — I wish you the best of success with your stories!

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