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Hey folks,

All this talk about natural language and code reminds me of the recent release of Inform 7.  Inform itself is a special purpose language specifically geared towards making interactive text games — think Zork, or if you don't know Zork consider it like a MOO, except self-contained, (usually) puzzle oriented, and finite.  At any rate, Informs 1-6 were sort of typical Perl or Python-esque scripting languages, but 7 manages to completely redo the language syntax in a more natural way.   It's worth checking out.  I often thought that if I ever did an introduction to programming languages for non-techies, I'd try to teach Inform 7.


  1. I tried Inform, and here are the results: The game or interactive fiction generated is so MOO-like — that’s your point, isn’t it John, that these things come out of the original Dungeon-and-Dragon MUDDs? It also seems like Nick Montfort’s Ad Verbum (, which is also an adventure game, but one with words. I am completely addicted to it. John, I need your help: what is a “Z-machine interpreter” and how do I get one? (

  2. It is MOO like in structure, but I believe that interactive fiction predates MUDs … the first interactive fiction game arose in 1975 while the first MUD didn’t show up until a couple of years after that. So they’re sorta-kinda roughly concurrent.

    A Z-Machine interpreter is the client that runs the compiled Inform code. You can think of it sort of like a Java applet — you program in Java code, then compile it using a Java compiler, but you have to use a Java client to actually run the program. The original Infocom interactive fiction games were probably the first Java-like interpreted programs in that they could be compiled once and then run on any computer that had a Z-code client — so the Infocom guys could concurrently release their games for PC, Apple, etc.

    Interestingly enough, you already have a Z-machine interpreter — the Inform compiler contains an interpreter — that’s what’s on the right side of your screenshot (the black-and-white window with “office” at the top). You can get sstandalone interpreters from — you’ll probably want Windows Frotz, which is here:

  3. Oh and also, Ad Verbum is a game programmed in Inform, so you’re correct in that what you’re doing with Inform 7 is like Ad Verbum.

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