Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inform Update and Kind of Value (nomenclature)

I was so sure I had the latest version of Inform. Well, turns out I didn't. Downloading it broke my code big-time, and I'm not sure how to go from here.

Here's the issue:
Originally, I defined that animal names as a kind of value. Why? Well, partly incompetence, and partly because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The name values are defined in a Table of Names (I'm clever like that about naming stuff). The names were gleaned from the Social Security Administration, which apart from making sure people are using the right social security number, also publishes massive quantities of information about baby names. Great! I thought. An easy shortcut to having a significant number of animal names.

So I made a big list, with female gendered names at the beginning and male gendered names at the end, and called it a day. The last version of Inform handled this with aplomb.

Well, unfortunately, some names are used for both genders, and the current Inform doesn't want to add a value to a list of value when it's already defined. So it gets to the male names, finds Ashley, or Anton, or Armani, which apparently parents named their female babies this year, and freaks out.

The easy fix would be to remove/replace those names that conflict. Tedious. But at this point we're talking a tedious easy fix to a short-term solution.

I suspect that I would have been better off making names text originally, except I might run into trouble if the player wants to refer to the animal by name - I think that requires what Inform calls "indexed text" and what I call "WTF text." I have had real issues getting indexed text to work properly for me on the few occasions I've used it, and it edges dangerously close to rules I'm not comfortable with - a lot of that fiddly stuff is still in Inform 6 or something. (Hey, I remember why I made names a new kind of value now, and it wasn't pure laziness. It was fear. See, this is why I need to keep development notes.)

The other downside is pure laziness - I have to find a way to put double quotes around all those names. (Right now, there's ~2,000, plus the names of wild animals.)

Also, there's a bunch of names that are essentially nonsense. I need to weed out the names that are tough to spell. I love the idea of having a cow called Anastasia, but I'm not typing "milk Anastasia" twice a day. So I need to:
- figure out what I'm going to do. I could put mixed gender and generic animal names in a neutral gender section in the middle of the list, and allow either gender to pick from them, or I could eliminate the gender that doesn't seem "right" to me, or some of both. (Armani is not a girl's name in my game.)
- weed out all the difficult to type names
- weed out all the names I *hate*
- look at the longer ones and make sure they're names I can type and would be willing to type
- find replacements for the names I removed

This is not what I want to be doing right now, so I'm wondering how I can shelve it for later. Some days I feel like fiddly stuff, other days . . . not so much.

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