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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 7:51 am 
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I'm not so much debating the merits of one or the other, I'm curious what "make sense" in people's minds to choose.

For example, I notice compass rose examples tend to use z-machine more. I also like that you can color text. Glulx seems to offer better text styling overall but seems limited to just two custom styles for the duration of the game. More complex layouts with Glulx seem possible but looking at threads here: (1) the extensions to support this are a bit muddy as they are brought up to date and (2) not all interpreters support the fancy stuff anyway.

Speaking of interpreters, it seems like you can have more options for releasing with an interpreters if you go z-machine (including things like Vorple).

I realize Glulx can store a larger game overall and I do realize that some constructs of Inform 7 may inflate the needs such that Glulx becomes necessary.

So, like everything, tradeoffs and whatnot. I'm just curious what others think on this, in terms of the rationale for choosing one or the other.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:15 am 
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It's a complicated question. Glulx has no way to do the inline-color changes of Z-machine so you could do 8 colors in the same paragraph that was a basic opcode feature of Z-machine. At one time, Glulx had a variety of extensive extensions to do windows, colors, animation, etc - but almost none of these extensions sets survived the migration to Inform 7 6M62 syntax changes. For example, extension frameworks like Glimmr http://www.ifwiki.org/index.php/Glimmr just don't seem to work or have been updated to run on Inform 7 6M62. Some story authors are willing to work with old versions of Inform 7 and have a working set of extensions.

Another issue is that Google said in September 2015 (now 15 months ago) there were 1.4 Billion active devices running Android Linux. yet, there was no active or supported Glulx interpreter for Android. Where stable choices do exist for Z-machine. So it depends on where you would want to run your games. if you only intend to support web-browsers via Quixe/Parchment then this wouldn't matter to you (and it is possible to run in a web browser on Android). I'm personally trying to crack the Android problem... so hopefully soon that issue goes away in choice.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:31 am 
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Good summary, thanks.

Orthogonal perhaps to your point is one concern I have which is that an extensions based system can become chaos if it's not managed well. Case in point is exactly what you've noted: lots of extensions that don't update to match the code of the core implementation that allows the extensions to be used. To be fair, these are battles any extension-based system has. Ruby has it with Gems, Python with ... well, with anything, Node.js with NPM. But all of those systems have provided workable solutions to manage that. Those are probably lessons we could bring over to Inform. (Maybe. It always gets complicated when a system undergoes systemic enough changes but that's why you have a deprecation path so that extensions continue to work up until a point.)

The interesting thing though is that it's not like Inform has a massive release every few weeks or even months from what I can see. Which means any given build should be relatively stable for quite some time, which means extensions should have no trouble keeping up. I realize there's a person-to-time factor involved there, of course, but that's another danger you get when you have a vanilla system that ends up relying on a whole bunch of extensions. You have to consider the ecosystem you want to support and whether your active base can support that ecosystem.

The colored text thing was the most interesting to me in some ways. I'll be the first to admit that too much color can be annoying. But Glulx definitely seems like a step back in the style department. I'm not sure why only two custom styles are allowed unless that's some deep limitation of the code.

Interpreters are another interesting aspect. The Inform manual mentions Vorple support for Glulx around 2015. I'm assuming the lack of such is simply due to lack of time by various participants. Certainly with open source, more participants could potentially help out but, right now, I've found that even figuring out the nooks and crannies of the specifications can be a bit interesting, to say the least.

I guess overall it's hard to see where Inform 7 development is really going. Clearly Glulx must be it because it's the default choice for story format. And clearly Glulx has a better chance of keeping up with developments in Inform 7 (code constructs and whatnot). But it also seems like Glulx support is in an interesting state across the board. It's sort of a catch-22. More people might stick with z-machine because of more options (or easier options), but Inform developers presumably want Glulx to be the future. Thus you really need more people focusing on Glulx to make that happen.

I'm just rambling at this point, I guess, trying to feel out what the current situation is. Maybe this is the better question:

Who are the "Inform developers"? I see different people seem to write the IDEs. Obviously many different people write extensions. Some people are writing specifications for various things. (It even looks like Inform 6 is still seeing updates?) Clearly some people must be developing Inform itself. Lots of names float around but who's who? And do they participate here in the forums? And how do they most want or need help?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:42 am 
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Eldritch Eschaton wrote:
Good summary, thanks.
The colored text thing was the most interesting to me in some ways. I'll be the first to admit that too much color can be annoying. But Glulx definitely seems like a step back in the style department. I'm not sure why only two custom styles are allowed unless that's some deep limitation of the code.


Well, it's deeper than that in that Glk is a standard for multiple interpreters (Hugo, Level 9, Magnetic, Scare, Tads 2 and 3., etc). I think Glk made a fundamental choice of not doing something that Z-machine had as a feature - inline color changes. Right now, Z-machine devs has to go OUTSIDE Glk to do what they could have done before Glk came along. It was hopeful / wishful thinking that I think Glulx would take over - but more than anything I think the history from today backwards shows it to have been a mistake to not properly address colors. In another topic here I even posted it as a "Christmas wish" that this be extended and at least be defined in the Glk standard. I posted this diff: https://github.com/BroadcastGames/Infor ... fac2ba40b9

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:51 am 
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Z-Machine has its uses, but I think it's sort of like how Windows 95 and cassette tapes held on for so long as stalwarts, but eventually it just makes sense to move on to a more modern format. It's a shame that gblorb files can't be made to work in Android consistently since it is a modern mobile OS.

Text coloring and formatting is one of those things where you can't predict how people will play your game. One of the solutions that I really wish could work is a program I found that could wrap a website into a standalone .app file on a Mac (.app is sort of the OSX equivalent of a .exe file.) Using that, you can control text formatting via CSS and make the app look exactly like Inform's publishable website with an interpreter (image display, but no sound) without being connected to the internet and without needing to worry about browser versions or multiply-capable interpreters. The negative is A: This doesn't exist for Windows without jumping through some slightly more complicated hoops, and B: The developer of the Mac utility intends it for creating personal apps and requests that they not be distributed - no license. Otherwise this type of distribution could be perfect as it bundles everything into one sensible file that the end-user just runs natively in the OS.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:54 am 
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HanonO wrote:
Z-Machine has its uses, but I think it's sort of like how Windows 95 and cassette tapes held on for so long as stalwarts, but eventually it just makes sense to move on to a more modern format.


I think you may be overlooking that many people view these as "emulators' who run already-created story files that never had source code released. Much like a Commodore 64 emulator or a Nintendo 64 emulator. So a lot of work has gone into stable interpreters - allowing people to run these old stories on new devices for people who want to share old stories with their children, etc. So "leaving it behind" would only make sense to an author who is sitting down to write page 1 of a new story.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:56 am 
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HanonO wrote:
One of the solutions that I really wish could work is a program I found that could wrap a website into a standalone .app file on a Mac (.app is sort of the OSX equivalent of a .exe file.) Using that, you can control text formatting via CSS and ...


Interesting. Along those same lines, but different implementation, when I was last on the scene, TADS 2 was it. But I notice that TADS 3 has been around for some time and looking at its WebUI, that is quite powerful. You can essentially use the full range of JavaScript and CSS directly, with no intervening layers. I haven't played with it enough yet to get a good feel for it but the small experimentation I've done so far seems to show it as an eminently practical example of what can be done.

I realize that has no bearing on z-machine concerns and Glulx (and Glk) is still enough of a black box for me to be uncertain enough to risk too much commentary at this point. The design rationale of the TADS 3 system is clear enough: leverage existing technology. I don't entirely get the design rationale of Glulx yet, particularly if it wasn't bound to the z-machine historical aspects at all.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:03 am 
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Eldritch Eschaton wrote:
I don't entirely get the design rationale of Glulx yet, particularly if it wasn't bound to the z-machine historical aspects at all.


I think what motivated a lot of it was size limitations. if you used too much text (or related lookup) in your story - you would run into limits. If you ignored all the visual aspects - Glulx allowed you to lift those limitations of story content size without having to rewrite your Inform 7 story itself (same source code, and no having to change IDE). You can just go in and compile to a different virtual machine standard. If you stick with black & white single-window interfaces that just use bold/italic you could make the change with no real effort.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:17 pm 
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Who are the "Inform developers"? I see different people seem to write the IDEs. Obviously many different people write extensions. Some people are writing specifications for various things. (It even looks like Inform 6 is still seeing updates?) Clearly some people must be developing Inform itself. Lots of names float around but who's who? And do they participate here in the forums? And how do they most want or need help?


The Inform 7 compiler is Graham Nelson. The various IDEs are supported by different people on different platforms.

The Inform 6 compiler is me and David Kinder, but we treat the I6 language as stable and only update the compiler for bug fixes and features needed to support the Inform toolset. DavidG is working on an Inform 6 library update.

I do the spec work on Glk/Glulx, although that has been stalled for a while as I work on interpreters and games and day-job stuff and so on.

Areas needing help: interpreter support is a biggie. Gargoyle gets occasional source patches but nobody is responsible for a release process or getting builds done. Mac Zoom and Spatterlight are completely out of date. Nobody is doing Android ports of anything.

If you know I6, I have a backburnered project to write up solutions and test cases for all the exercises in the DM4. (https://github.com/erkyrath/inform6-test) Contributions welcome there.

Creating IFDB entries for new games, and updating IFWiki, are community tasks that could always use more hands.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:24 pm 
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zarf wrote:
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Nobody is doing Android ports of anything.


Well, I guess I'm Mr. Nobody. I haven't drawn enough attention to the Android Linux 1.8 billion devices not having Glulx interprter support? I commented to that fact in this very thread! What did run Glulx was largely ignored (zero comments) by this forum - Incant https://github.com/qpliu/incant - spoken aloud viewtopic.php?f=38&t=19740&start=0#p113081 - and I asking dumb C questions all the time to try and make progress. I spent 120 hours on Son of Hunkpunk with code on Github, little interest - I spent 30 hours on Twisty revival (24 months stalled) on Gihub with little feedback! Now I'm going from scratch using RemGlk as a base as it at least gives a way to do Glk beyond Z-machine that everyone failed at. Have you see the film named after me, Mr. Nobody?

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