After some final tweeks on timing and moving some objects around I'm ready to hit the upload button and put the latest alpha release of The Z-Machine Matter into the IntroComp hopper. The source code clocks in at about 230 pages, 10,600 lines, 70,000 words. There are 194 things, 44 rooms, 5 NPCs and at least 2 dead bodies. And that's just the first two acts. So who knows what will happen in the third act? (Sometimes, I'm not even sure myself.) There's also a 12 page Infocom-style PDF manual with mocked up packaging, on line Help, Hints, a Trizbort map, a mostly up-to-date walkthrough file and a fake ad.
Based on alpha feedback, I've fixed more than a hundred typos, bugs, disambiguities and other problems. I have added dozens of new commands, synonyms, IF references, "understand as a mistake" statements and far too many "it is likely" commands. No doubt there is plenty more code to be written in the next act of the game and even more bug fixes before the game is complete.
Some months ago I started this project by writing a 20 page document that defined the background, storyline, characters and plot. Then I picked up Aaron Reed's excellent book "Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7" and started coding a prototype. I created the cover art and fake packaging early to help set the mood and make clear the game is inspired by the legendary titles of Infocom. Over many months, that prototype has evolved into something that may now be a reasonably playable couple of introductory scenes.
Nonetheless, it has taken a lot of time and I'm ready to take a break while IntroComp is in progress. I hope that anyone who has not yet played the game will test it out and send me feedback, suggestions and ideally a SCRIPT transcript file. And if any of the alpha testers want to do a code review or help me with some programming tasks during this time, please let me know. No doubt my Inform7 code leads a lot to be desired.
Thanks to everyone who has helped with this project, especially the extension authors Aaron Reed, Emily Short, George Tryfonas, Eric Eve, Michael Martin whose code I have used and abused. Special thanks to the numerous alpha testers who painstakingly replayed the game several times: Dan Fabulich, Colin 'Agent Kong' Djukic, Duncan Bowsman, James Curry, Doug Orleans, Adam Thornton, Jason Ouelette, Seth Spurlock and Ben Riga among others.
Agent Kong really went beyond the call of duty for his many bug reports. He earns an original 1930s Dennis Wheatley Crimefile. That'll be in the post shortly. And thanks to Adam for reporting a last minute bug that broke just about everything in the game! (Glad I found that one.) Adam will also be getting an original Dennis Wheatley. And I'll also be sending out several 1970s Dennis Wheatley reprints to other testers in the next week or so.
And kudos to Jason Scott whose documentary film 'Get Lamp' and Chris Huang whose excellent game 'An Act of Murder' rekindled my interest in IF. I hope in some small way that The Z-Machine Matter can also pay tribute to the earliest days of Interactive Fiction and the games of Infocom that inspired a generation of IF authors.