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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:44 pm 
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Posts: 1519
The long wait is over! Vorple has been completely rewritten and is now compatible with Glulx instead of Z-machine. That means that it's finally feasible to write Vorple stories with Inform 7 without having to worry about Z-machine limitations.

To those who are new to Vorple, it's a set of Inform extensions and a custom web interpreter that lets you issue JavaScript commands from the story to the web browser. The extensions use this to expand Inform's capabilities by making it possible to add external features like popup notifications and to modify the interpreter layout and output, for example with font styles and colors.

There are a lot of new features and extensions and existing extensions have been greatly expanded. Here are all the included extensions in addition to the core Vorple extension:

  • Command Prompt Control — manipulating the player's command, the prompt, and the command history
  • Element Manipulation — low-level tools for modifying the interpreter layout
  • Hyperlinks — clickable links that can trigger parser commands, web links or JavaScript code
  • Modal Windows — popup windows to display information
  • Multimedia — pictures, audio and playlists
  • Notifications — small information windows that appear and disappear automatically
  • Screen Effects — font styles, colors, text alignment, headers, lists
  • Tooltips — tips that appear on demand or when placing the mouse cursor over something
Many existing features have been redone or renamed, so existing Vorple projects are likely to need some adjustment to get working with the new version. The long changelog can be read here.

What does it mean that it's a preview? There are still some known issues and missing features that should be in the "final" version. Here's the relevant part of the documentation:

Quote:
The previous versions of Vorple worked only in the Z-machine format, which severely limited the size of the stories that were possible to write, especially with Inform 7. The current release is compatible with Glulx which in practice eliminates all size limitations. The latest version is still a preview, so while it’s stable and works, it hasn’t gone through rigorous testing and may contain unexpected problems.

These are the currently known major issues:

  • No Internet Explorer support — the system should support the latest versions of all major browsers, but the interpreter engine uses a feature that doesn’t work in IE 11.
  • Functionality in mobile devices hasn’t been thoroughly tested, and some features are known to not work on mobile devices, e.g. most of the sound system (although partly because of inherent restrictions in mobile browsers that can’t be fully circumvented.)
  • Some planned features are not ready yet. In Vorple Screen Effects setting font styles for the entire page isn’t implemented, neither is setting colors to an arbitrary value from inside Inform. The transient text feature is removed from the Screen Effects extension and will be included in a future text animation extension. Vorple Modal Windows has only the basic functionality.
  • Displaying text in an element that’s not the main text flow may cause insertion of additional line breaks to the story output in Inform 7. This may happen depending on the location in the Inform code where it’s executed.
  • The prompt is printed twice when the story ends.
  • Opening multiple modal windows in succession with Vorple Modal Windows may cause the modals to act erratically.
  • No status line – the status line extension is “almost there” but doesn’t work well enough to be published.
Also the technical documentation is incomplete. Most functions in the JavaScript API are documented in the code. Technical documentation is necessary only for developers who wish to integrate Inform with their own custom JavaScript code or other JavaScript libraries, so it doesn’t affect “normal” use of the Inform extensions.

The current list of known issues is for the interpreter here and for the extensions here.

So the system works, but there's still work to be done. If you have a "serious" project in mind, Vorple is stable enough to use. The Inform phrases are unlikely to change much between now and the full release.

To get started, download Vorple and read the documentation. Each extension has its own documentation included with the extension. There's a demo which is still rather ascetic — one of the things that are on the to-do list for the full release.

The purpose of this preview release is to get some more people to try the system. If you do try it and find bugs, it'd be great if you could report them — either to GitHub (links are at the end of the quote above) or here, private messages work too. I would also be interested to know if the documentation and installation instructions needs improving, especially since it needs some setup to get going.

Hugo Labrande is working on the Inform 6 version which is almost ready, but didn't quite make it for today. If you're interested in the I6 version, either trying it out or contributing, you can contact Hugo directly (forum user mulehollandaise.)

If you happen to be near London in about a month, I'll be talking about Vorple via Skype at the Oxford and London IF group's IF Tool Innovation meeting on May 31st.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 6:17 pm 
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Excellent work, congratulations!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 6:43 pm 
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Sweet. :)


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:17 pm 
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Wonderful--congratulations and thanks for the years of work!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:06 pm 
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Fantastic! :D

I tried to use Vorple with 6L38 (because languages other than English don't work with 6M, and I write in French) and I had to make a few modification to the core extension to make it work. The only drawback is that you cannot include external files because of this bug, so you have to add sounds, images, CSS and Javascript by hand in the generated folder (and add a line in play.html in the case of CSS and JS).

Below are the changes I made, in case of.

Changes to Vorple.i7x : show
Change "Last rule for" and "First rule for" into "Last for" and "First for" (without the word "rule") and change
Code:
if [some variable] is:
    -- [some text]: […]
    -- [some text]: […]
    [and so on]
by the long form version "if … else if … else if …

I also found some bugs in the examples. I'll send them soon.


Thanks again for the excellent work!


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PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 12:35 pm 
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This is very exciting! I know a lot of people want the functionality that Vorple provides in bigger games, and the interpreter is really cool!

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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 8:37 am 
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Cool. Got "Vorple Feature Demo" working on my system. I manually downloaded the material assets off the demo URL.

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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 1:16 pm 
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By the way, why is it impossible to play offline to a Vorple game whithout a local server? It was not the case with the previous version, and it makes more difficult to distribute an IF made with Vorple.


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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 6:09 am 
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Natrium729 wrote:
By the way, why is it impossible to play offline to a Vorple game whithout a local server? It was not the case with the previous version, and it makes more difficult to distribute an IF made with Vorple.

Very good question! When viewing local files, browsers disable some features for security reasons. Other interpreters and web-only systems like Parchment, Twine or Texture work from the file system because they use a fixed set of features that are known to not be restricted. Vorple games on the other hand can potentially use any feature so they may or may not work when run as a local file, depending on what they do. This was a problem with the previous version too. Even worse, the set of restricted features is different for each browser so the author might use Firefox to develop and it would work fine, but people who download the game might not get it working with Chrome.

So the latest version requires a local server, which guarantees that the browser's security restrictions don't cause extra problems for the author or the players. A big part of that decision is also the fact that Emscripten (the software that compiles the interpreter from C to JavaScript) generates code that automatically requires a server, and changing it would be a lot of work.

For distributing games as a download, Electron is a relatively easy way to turn the game into an executable file (the same software that Lectrote uses). I might later write a tutorial on how to do that.

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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 10:00 am 
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Thanks for the explanation! And Electron indeed looks like the way to go. I'm definitely waiting for the tutorial! (even if I'll try to manage myself in the meantime.)


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