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Beginner's Guide to Interactive Fiction with Inform 7

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The Inform 7 user interface.

The design and implementation of interactive fiction (i.e., text-based computer games) began in the 1970s. At that time, games were written in general-purpose programming languages by professional programmers and/or computer science majors in universities.

In more recent years, specialized languages have been developed for authoring interactive fiction (called "IF" for short). These languages, and the compiler software that they use, are available as free downloads. IF programming languages are widely used by hobbyist programmers, many of whom have little or no training in computer science. However, most IF languages closely resemble traditional programming languages such as C. As a result, they can be rather intimidating for those who have no experience in programming.

Inform 7 (website) presents an entirely new approach to IF authorship, one that has proven to have wide appeal to new authors. In Inform 7, the author can write in a manner that closely approximates normal written English. Certain special conventions have to be followed, and Inform 7's version of English is less tolerant of grammatical ambiguities than English itself. This is because, in the final analysis, Inform 7 is still a programming language. Computer programming requires precision.

Nonetheless, Inform 7 is an important development in IF. Inform 7 gives people who have never done any programming and are only marginally computer-literate a great set of tools with which to write their own text-based games.

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