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 Post subject: TADS is not dead...but
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:57 am 
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It could be very much alive. Bob Bates' new release of Thaumistry shows TADS3 is still a viable, capable language. And there have been a number of posts recently over playing TADS UI game over the web. This is all great progress, but...

Most every TADS game published online still looks and feels like the tired, old-school standard TADS interface. In a new IF gaming world full of Twine, Vorple, and modern web interfaces, TADS is being left behind by most authors. One look into the IFComp entries and we can see that.

Yet when I read the TADS 3 Web UI documentation, it offers the following: Adventurous authors who wish to go beyond the compatibility features in the Adv3web library will discover a whole new frontier in the Web UI. The key to the Web UI's expanded power is that the user interface runs in a true Web browser, not in a TADS interpreter. Modern Web browsers are extremely sophisticated UI application platforms, far beyond what the TADS interpreter can offer.

So I've searched for ONE game, ONE library contribution, ONE source recipe example, or ONE public source from a game. Anything that can offer help for an author to include some of these powerful web HTML capabilities and transform a TADS game way beyond its traditional interface. In my search, I still haven't found ANYTHING, ANYWHERE. I don't think most game authors want to spend 3 months trying to dissect the UI library into workable TADS code, but surely somebody in the IF universe has gone before and tried to unlock this hidden power of TADS web UI and provide compilation ready TADS code and (js.html, css) modification examples? Or am I the very first person to wonder why this? Is TADS that dead?

I know I'm ranting, but I still see gem buried in the dirt. You can talk all you want about making TADS more playable online, but if we can't unearth this UI capabilities gem to the average author, then we should start including TADS in the way of sad abdandonware like HUGO and ALAN.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:43 pm 
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BadWolf wrote:
I know I'm ranting,...


Yes, little bit. Recently there were some opinions floating around what technical features TADS desperately needs, such as offline JS interpreter (for whatever reason) and such - but what I think TADS needs are people who are willing not to talk in the forum about what TADS needs but rather who are willing to make some kick ass games! I could imagine that MJR would be more willing to fix bugs and make new releases instead of playing pinball if he sees there are bunch of people actively making use of TADS to do something interesting. Even if there are some bugs worth fixing, TADS is still state-of-art feature complete system ready for producing games.

BadWolf wrote:
So I've searched for ONE game, ONE library contribution, ONE source recipe example...


I'm not aware of any interesting WebUI example, probably still no one did anything out of ordinary. I did some interesting things with web UI in my game, but not graphically - I made a game for children puzzle hunt contest. Many teams competed against each other so features such as autosave, multiplayer chat, realtime leaderboard and first of all perfect localisation into my native language (TADS is only traditional IF system capable of uncompromising translation) was my main interest.

BadWolf wrote:
Most every TADS game published online still looks and feels like the tired, old-school standard TADS interface.


You said in other thread: "something as easy and powerful as Vorple integrated with TADS would go a long way to give it a modern feel." I've never seen Vorple, I don't even know what Vorple is so I'm not sure what you are talking about. Nobody ever produced any cool UI yet, but you know what? Nobody ever asked "I have this cool idea xyz, how can I do that?"


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:47 pm 
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The IFComp entry "Re: Dragon" (http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/c ... /play.html) is an example of a nontraditional web UI for IF, built using Inform and Vorple.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:11 am 
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One challenge I had was this bit from one of the manuals:

Quote:
The bad news is that you must choose in advance whether your game will use the Web UI or the
traditional UI. If you stick to the basic command-line user interface, the only difference is in compiler
options, so you can actually compile the same game both ways — so you'd have a single set of source
files, but you'd compile it twice, once into a .t3 file for conventional play, and again into a separate .t3
for Web play. On the other hand, if you decide to take advantage of the more advanced features of the
conventional UI (such as sound playback or the Banner API), or if you want to customize the Javascript
front end of the Web UI, your game will be tied to the UI that you choose.


Specifically that bit about "advanced features of the conventional UI", which seems to suggest those might not always translate to the Web UI. If you only want to do Web UI, the double compilation thing probably isn't an issue but this is just one example that shows TADS might be a bit clunkier than people want to deal with. Anyone coming from a pure programmatic background likely won't have issues with this. But you basically have to change your build file to include network related stuff (-D TADS_INCLUDE_NET) and then the library.

Then there's adv3lite. Apparently that was planned to be the next big library for TADS. But does all of that work the same with the WebUI? I don't know. I would presume so but I think the focus on adv3lite was a bit of a mistake. A mistake only in the sense that it funneled efforts away from what might be more substantive around TADS. The new library seemed to be catering to an audience that didn't really exist.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:41 am 
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Eldritch Eschaton wrote:
Specifically that bit about "advanced features of the conventional UI", which seems to suggest those might not always translate to the Web UI. If you only want to do Web UI, the double compilation thing probably isn't an issue but this is just one example that shows TADS might be a bit clunkier than people want to deal with.


Those "advanced" features (documentation says the banner API, sound playback, non-standard TADS HTML tags) doesn't translate into WebUI. Text adventure games and their interpreters were born long before any web browsers existed therefore are not compatible. You can play sound in real browser, but in substantially different way than in traditional interpreter. Therefore if you want a game with sound output and have it for both traditional and webUI, then you must do a double work in this case.

It depends on what game you want to create, if you want to use some advanced features of real browser, then it won't be compatible with traditional UI at all. But people who are not familiar with web technologies and doesn't want to use them can stay within limits of compatibility and do an ordinary game and then it's not clunky at all for them.

Still in the end I think that introduction of real browser technology into TADS ecosystem with constantly updated web standards is a good thing and widens possibilities for future. One successful game in IFcomp making good use of those features could help gain awareness. Any volunteer? :-)

Eldritch Eschaton wrote:
Anyone coming from a pure programmatic background likely won't have issues with this.


Programmers dealing with -beeeeep- software everyday will confess what a gem TADS and its documentation are. But TADS always will be powertool.

Eldritch Eschaton wrote:
Then there's adv3lite. Apparently that was planned to be the next big library for TADS. But does all of that work the same with the WebUI? I don't know. I would presume so but I think the focus on adv3lite was a bit of a mistake. A mistake only in the sense that it funneled efforts away from what might be more substantive around TADS. The new library seemed to be catering to an audience that didn't really exist.


There were lot of people (or few people loud enough?) on the forum saying that TADS is so hard to learn and therefore they can't make games which at least partly lead to lite library. I understand it as a simplified library which could allow authors to start learning TADS with something easier for their first games. Yet we still need those authors who want to create parser games in first place.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:37 am 
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I'm not sure if this is quite reached the status of a 'kick ass' game yet, but at least it's a fully functional complete game written in TADS 3 WebUI, with some changes to the interface using custom HTML/JS/CSS - most notably an automap feature, which shows the player graphically where they are in the game:

http://seriousgames.atwebpages.com

Bits still need work, which is why I haven't done much to put it out there, but if any of features seem like they would be useful, let me know and I will share the the code somehow. I've been meaning to do this for a while by putting something out, maybe on Github - but the code needs cleaning up a lot, as I'm not a professional developer and it's all rather bodged together and messy. Anyway, the HTML/CSS and JS are fairly easy to view using Chrome Devtools or similar. I should mention it's written mainly for people who haven't played IF before, so if you're playing it and the puzzles seem rather obvious - they are supposed to be, until you get to the end of the walkthrough where it (hopefully) gets a bit more interesting. Oh, and one more caveat - the map works OK on Chrome, but there are minor problems on other browsers that I haven't ironed out yet (you can still see the map, it just doesn't look as good).


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