Monthly Archives: April 2016


Saturday, a day when the Walklate-Ellwood household sits in their shared office ignoring the world. Except not today, because the Ellwood half is heading out to a workshop session of the writing circle they attend. I haven’t looked outside today and the curtains are still drawn, so the weather could be anything and not surprise me.

Tomorrow Leicester City Football Club have a chance of winning the Premier League. If someone had told me this twenty years ago when I attended my only football match, a miserable second team match between Leicester City and Norwich, then I would have refused to believe it. This long held mood of low-expectations has start to lift over the city and blue banners are draped everywhere. This is an upheaval of the natural order and one which is pleasant to watch.

As I’m on foot most of the day and locked into a room for four hours this afternoon, along with the social activities I wish to enjoy after, today will I not achieve much. Because I intend to only have one or two drinks later I might be able to get some stuff done later tonight, but wouldn’t plan on it.

Scrum notes:

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the project?
    • I abandoned the story I was writing for Jon. There may be something in that can be saved, but the exercise I was layering onto our shared exercise wasn’t working out. Somewhere I hadn’t given it enough thought or made the right creative leap, and while I was able to drag 1200 words out of the scenario, I wasn’t able to paint the final three numbers of the picture.
    • I experimented with two conversation systems in Inform 7. One did compile, while the other did not, so my decision over which to use was made by a technological constraint.
    • After getting my head around how to do complicated things with that extension (Simple Chat), I implemented the through line for one of the NPC conversations, which means the storylet I’m working on has all of the core logic in place now. It works. I’m happy.
    • Late last night I revisited some prior work analysing the structure of J.G. Ballard short stories at a high level and an outline for a story I’d based on that work. For reasons, something hadn’t sat right with that outline, but with some attention and Jane Weaver I nudged things into a better state. One that I’m happy to progress with.
  2. What am I going to do today?
    • Attend the critique session and have one of my stories tested. I’ll also be looking at material from two others. This happens. It is not something to talk about outside of that group.
    • I need to think about the next storylet and sketch out its rough narrative arc. This one should be more complicated than the first. Would a treasure hunt or a collect a certain amount of items be of interest? It’s a very Fallen London thing and may not apply too well to a parser based game, but the implementation of it could throw a light on areas of the language I’ve yet to use.
    • I also need to find some qualities to use. If I do a treasure hunt then that provides me with one quality (statistic), but it would be smart if I started thinking about how to unify the storylets.
    • As I’ve abandoned the prose project I had been working on I am now free to concentrate on the other project. Let’s give it a code name: SILVER CHORD.
  3. What are my blockers?
    • There is nothing significant apart from the time I am in transit on foot, but this is an expectation of the day.

Yesterday’s food experiment worked. Today’s lunch will be whatever I can buy on Queens Road in Leicester, probably something from a nice deli. No idea what curry I’ll eat tonight.

THIS MORNING: Jen’s cat attacked my feet in a berserker rage!


Look at him. He wouldn't hurt a fly. Maybe.


Having a slow day to get started. There was a lot of activity yesterday and this is the weird middle day of a sprint, where I can see what I’ve done and I also can see ahead of me what’s left. I’ve been rereading the Fail Better Games Storychoices wiki this morning to refresh myself on a lot of their theory. I’m also trying to avoid playing their games Fallen London and Sunless Sea.

Maybe I’ll treat myself later.

Anyway it’s getting late in the day and I need to make myself some lunch, so the scrum notes are below.

Scrum notes:

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the project?
    • I advanced the handwritten draft of the story for Jon and typed material up
    • I made revisions for the story due to be critiqued by my peers tomorrow and sent the manuscript off for printing
    • In The Market Underground I implemented the framework for The Old Man and the Evil Waiter storylet. This includes basic items, NPCs, and the start and end conditions
  2. What am I going to do today?
    • More handwriting of the story for Jon. Aiming for completion of that draft
    • In The Market Underground my intent is to look at two things:
      • First I need to experiment with two menu driven conversation systems (Quip-Based Conversation by Michael Martin and Simple Chat by Mark Tilford) before making a decision about which I use in this project.
      • Second I would like to implement two NPC conversations and the game logic attached to them which will complete the basics of the storylet. This will leave me with the tasks of expanding text and polishing.
  3. What are my blockers?
    • There is nothing significant

It occurred to me after publishing this post that I didn’t set the goals for the sprint that started yesterday. They are fairly simple:

  1. Attend a workshop session and have a story critiqued
  2. Complete all of the technical framework for The Old Man and the Evil Waiter storylet
  3. Make progress with the story for Jon and have sent something to him by the end of Saturday

Of those three goals attending the workshop session is a fixed event in my calender and the bid for time has already been placed, and the second task is well on the way at the start of the second day.



The holiday starts today! All of the real work on this IF work starts today. Awesome. It’s also freezing cold outside, which should help keep me inside and not wandering the city looking for interesting places of caffeinated distractions where I can sit and read.

Yesterday evening I attended my local speculative fiction writing group. For the first hour of the session I distracted myself by watching the Clarke Award announcements on my phone and reading Aaron Reed’s book on writing interactive fiction, Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7. Second half I got some words down. Then went to the pub and had a reasonably good time discussing workshop bureaucracy and some other topics, which have escaped me. It helped that I could drink more than usual, but this also exposed the inadequacies of the bar we visited that I’d not normally exposed to. Oh well.

Scrum notes:

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the project?
    • Last night before I left for Speculators I finished the work Tuesday’s task of coding up the skeletal map of The Market Underground
    • I also typed more material up on Tuesday evening
    • Last night I wrote one complete section of the short story
  2. What am I going to do today?
    • I’m going to handwrite more of the story for Jon
    • I’m also going to type more of the above material up
    • The major task that must be completed today is to make adjustments to the piece of work I’m having critiqued on Saturday. Jenny sent me some really useful feedback. This must be done so it can be sent for printing
    • For The Market Underground I am going to start to implement the basics for the first storylet
      • Structure the section of the file to organise this
      • Define the NPCs
      • Define the significant items
      • Define the scene material
  3. What are my blockers?
    • There is nothing significant

Some items which came up in the unpublished Tuesday scrum, where I carried out a quick retrospective were:

  • I need to work on my ambition and ensure that I don’t hope to complete too much. Looking at today’s goals I think I’ve managed to qualify my expectations better. The tasks are mostly phrased in terms of advancing towards something instead of completing a task. The revision task is a clear exception, but that’s because it is for a set event
  • I noted that it made me mad that things kept breaking. I got the car exhaust replaced yesterday and an engineer couldn’t find anything wrong with the washing machine, although it had logged an error. I’m not longer mad about these things, as they’ve been closed off as active issues for now.

One item which appeared on my radar was Harry Schwartz’s talk on org-mode, which was posted to YouTube. It makes me want to revisit my configuration of Emacs & start using org-mode again to write documents and organise my life. There are some environmental interoperability issues that need to resolve, but it might be a task that I can reflect on if I get stuck with something else. Configuring my text editor to do cooler and cooler things is a form of meditation. :)




Yesterday’s afternoon of work was frustrated by our awful washing machine. It’s an excuse but one that I’m sticking to. Today has been made slightly more complicated since I am due to support some work activities from home later tonight, which will eat into the 21:45 – 22:30 time before bed that often gets used for reading/writing. This Monday I won’t get to watch some episodes of The West Wing, which makes me very sad. :(

Scrum notes:

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the project?
    • I created the Inform 7 project and started to fill out the boiler plate material.
    • Earlier today I received my new mechanical keyboard. Obviously it’s a very nice piece of kit, but had been bought with the intention of easing my interface with my PC.
  2. What am I going to do today?
    • I am going to type up the material that I have already written for Jon’s story and email it to him.
    • I am going to write more zero draft for Jon.
    • Optionally, I am going to finish the Inform 7 boiler plate and start implementing the basics of a map.
  3. What are my blockers?
    • Yesterday as I started to get into the swing of things the washer-drier we have stopped working mid-cycle. I lost an hour draining it and rescuing clothes from it. Abandoned serious work after that as it seriously frustrated me. An engineer is coming later in the week to repair it.
    • I’m due to cook dinner tonight and I have to do an hours work tonight at 10PM. At 7PM I’m going to buy ingredient to make a cheat’s Chana Masala
    • The work thing!

TODAY’S PODCASTS: No Such Thing as a Fish (end of while in car), America’s Test Kitchen (in car) & The Coode Street Podcast (queued to start for when I go for chickpeas for dinner).

das keyboard

Scrum #1 – Cortado

It’s a Sunday afternoon. Jenny & I are sat in our home office in front of our desktop computers. My work laptop sits next to me doing things. A glass of Co-Op apple and cucumber sparkling water sits half empty to the right of my keyboard. Pink Floyd’s The Wall plays through my giant red headphones. My parent’s will call for their weekly chat in a couple of hours.

Scrum notes:

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the project?
    • I wrote a few hundred words of setting and thematic background fluff. I’m having to adopt a pragmatic approach to world-building as an activity rather than my ideological stance against it. I’ve drawn two maps: one geographic and the second map a logical one. They are required to give the programming activities shape. The setting and thematic writing will help me polish the game into a coherent demo in the final sprint.
  2. What am I going to do today?
    • Work on the story for Jon. This will take about two or three hours. Ideally complete the handwritten draft
    • Create Inform 7 project files for The Market Underground
    • Fill in all the boilerplate headings in the main inform file
    • Test a several menu driven conversation systems for Inform 7
    • Experiment more with the Inform 7 language
  3. What are my blockers?
    • None


cortado coffee


I have been made to book holiday or lose it, so will shortly be enjoying an extended break from productive work. This is great. There will be almost two weeks to lounge about reading and playing games. What the hell am I going to do with that time?

It’s simple. Apart from working on short fiction I’m going to learn how to produce material in another niche medium and write a piece of interactive fiction. I’ve had a book on my shelf about Inform 7 (a language for writing these things) and a fascination with IF for about half my life. It won’t be practical. It won’t make my day job easier. But it will be something different to do.

To keep myself honest I’m going to treat this in the same manner I’d treat a work project and run a variation on the Scrum Methodology. With twelve days off starting from the Thursday coming that’s enough time to do four sprints of three days each. If I start today running three day sprints then I’ll get myself at least five sprints over the course of the project. This post should be considered the planning session for sprint one. I will write a retrospective post on Tuesday and short scrum updates tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday.

The daily scrums will be published to this site in an effort to keep myself honest.

What’s this game going to be about and what technology am I going to use to write it? Well I’ve had the book on Inform 7 for ages and it’s a fun language to use. The snippet below is a work of rudimentary IF. This compiles into a working example.

The Study is south of the Landing. “Two untidy desks line the walls. A desk lamp sits next to a monitor and keyboard.”

A desk lamp is an object. “The lamp is a cheap Anglepoise knock-off.”

The Landing is east of the Bedroom. “The narrow corridor leads to the study, bedroom, and bathroom. A steep staircase next to the bedroom door descends into the Living Room.”

The Bathroom is west of the Landing. “A shower cubical & bath at one end. A toilet and sink at the other end.”

The Bedroom is east of the Landing. “Some of these directions are a bit tiresome.”

The Living Room is below the Landing. “A living room.”

The sofa is an object. The description of the sofa is “A blue Ikea sofa.” The sofa is in the living room.

Deckard is an animal. The description of Deckard is “Deckard is a fluffy brown tabby cat.” Deckard is in the living room.

There are some nuances which I have not yet explored, but you can do a lot quickly with Inform 7. As such the game is going to be set in an underground market place and involve three very short pieces of fiction. At the end of the project I want to have implemented and done the following tasks. Because the project is being ran under SCRUM I’m throwing in fiction writing activities under the scheme, so that the time is properly accounted for.

  1. Finish writing a short story for Jon Cronshaw. Type up. Send.

  2. Map out the game’s environment on paper and in code. Give full descriptions of rooms

  3. Write encounter one: the old man and the evil waiter. Implement this as a menu driven conversation with item collection

  4. Write encounter two: TBC. Ensure this is different and more complex than the previous

  5. Write encounter three. TBC. Ensure this is different and more complex than the previous

  6. Design a through line which unites the three diverse encounters and provides a number of different endings for the player

  7. Polish the game and release a beta version

  8. Attend at least one fiction workshop session

  9. Attend Wednesday writing sessions on Queens Road with the Speculators

  10. Start and complete draft zero of the story based on prompting phrase “Transreal Alien Landscapes”

In the first sprint I intend to tackle tasks one, two, and start prototyping for task three. Tasks one and two require little explication and will probably be worked on in the West End Brew Pub. :) Task three I will provide some requirements for in tomorrow’s scrum.

CURRENTLY READING: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Tranby house 43 gnangarra