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"Easy" Interactive Fiction Languages

Languages for the Non-Programmer

by Eric Mayer

Table of Contents
• Introduction
• Alan
• Conclusions


Writing has always fascinated me, and over the years I've tried my hand at everything from magazine articles to novels and comic books. When I discovered that computer text adventures were still alive on the web I had the urge to write one practically before my first troll's body was cold. There was, however, one little obstacle. Little? Well, how big is a Babel fish? My problem was that I can't program.

When I was in school, computers didn't sit on your desk, they were contraptions that filled rooms at NASA. So I'd never learned anything about programming, had never even coaxed a "HELLO ERIC" out of a computer.

My first look at computer code was the Inform designer's manual and I didn't like what I saw -- masses of letters and numbers strewn about in weird patterns, liberally interspersed with what appeared to be bizarre punctuation and a plague of braces. The last was particularly disturbing, since I could never recall having typed a brace in my entire life, and had often been puzzled by the existence of these pretentious parentheses on my keyboards.

The other major IF languages, TADS and Hugo, didn't look much better, so I was ready to relegate my ambition to write IF to the realm of regrets, there to keep company with all the other sorts of things one dreams idly about, like maybe being able to poke a homerun over the short right field fence at Yankee Stadium off Nolan Ryan because, hey the wind might be blowing out and he might just decide to throw me a changeup. Well, Nolan Ryan might not make things easy for me, but I discovered that there were some authors of IF languages who were doing their best to toss changeups to programming wannabes, among them Thomas Nilsson, author of Alan, and Campbell Wild, author of Adrift.

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This article copyright © 2001, Eric Mayer

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