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Patreon drive and change to HTML5

PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:18 am
by Savriss
I've been thinking about this topic since the the appearance of the first blog posts regarding it.

Inform (and other text adventure kits) come with a variety of problems, not least of which is that they are competing with graphics for attention. They can also have odd structure and practically occult compiling issues. On the other hand, they also have active communities and have already faced many of the problems that will confront active development. Whether or not Flexible Survival has become one of the largest children of these systems, there are people who are not involved in the game itself who can provide valuable insight into the surrounding system.

HTML5 is all well and good but coding the system from scratch comes with some daunting drawbacks. For starters, It's a complete paradigm shift that rests largely on the shoulders of one person and that can make for a completely inscrutable development environment. This can work when there is a very focused team led by a carefully controlled design drive but, in my experience, it is badly suited to work by a collective with loose governance. So far as I am aware, Flexible Survival sits squarely in the latter category and this worries me; If and when the lead designer moves on, are there any plans for making handovers smooth and effective?

I have very mixed feelings about this change of direction. I think the Patreon drive is an excellent initiative and that the game needs new eyes but systemic change is always risky.

[Edited to improve grammar]

Re: Patreon drive and change to HTML5

PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2015 12:29 pm
by Songbird
Your concerns are valid. The recent compile errors in Inform have increased the urgency of this move over, but I strongly agree that a certain measure of forethought, skepticism and peer review is crucial to the redesign of a product's core engine. Developers should test and give feedback regarding their new suite of features before the product is pushed into mainstream production. It is, after all, the content creators who will struggle with learning an altogether new language, the different syntax required to effectively port over its existing content, and creating more content in the future.

However, we differ from historical incidents of rewrites going south in that we reallocate no resources in doing so. A paid independent developer is handling the main bulk of the labor, so none of our current writers are distracted from their work. This means we can continue to expand, polish and keep our product intriguing while developing a new engine on the side with no impact to our existing production. Perhaps most importantly, if the rewrite does not work out, we can fall back to our existing Inform implementation at virtually no cost and rework the HTML5 engine (or another language if need be) to more fully suit our needs.

Regarding handover, I have no idea. I think Nuku will continue to lead FS while he works on other projects in life. From what I can tell, he's currently most active in his Ponyfinder endeavors, which provides a creative outlet wherein he maintains full or near-full control of the product, something perhaps relieving for a developer who has some of that power innately challenged by other people working on his product in unison. That said, FS is a HUGE financial boon for Nuku. It's perhaps a bit cynical to suggest, but from a business perspective, it would make little sense to hand over the leadership of the project without another source of financial stability, and even then, Nuku would probably have the foresight to hire a responsible and qualified individual to continue to lead FS's creative direction. Those are my two cents regarding the matter and based almost purely on opinion. You would have to ask Nuku yourself if you want a clear answer as to whether there's intent to hand over the creative leadership of FS in the future.

Re: Patreon drive and change to HTML5

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 5:23 pm
by Samsquatch
I agree that Savriss has some legitimate concerns about the moveover to the new engine. There's almost no such thing as a bug-free computer program and it's not clear if the current programmer is going to be "on retainer" to fix issues we might encounter down the road (like the ones we're running into with inform now). Technically, the best safeguard we can have is well-documented source code for the new project, but I think anyone who has every had to look at someone else's code will realize that it's very difficult to pick up where someone else left off, especially with more ambitious projects.

It might be a good idea to hire a second programmer at some point in the development process to look at the code and perhaps help with debugging it. A second set of eyes would hopefully help make sure that the code is understandable to programmers besides the one we've hired (in the event we need to hire someone else down the road to fix things).

Aside from that, if development on this is successful, it might be worth putting it out as an alternative to inform. There's no better way to ensure good development and support than to form a community of people working to develop it.

Re: Patreon drive and change to HTML5

PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 2:46 am
by Savriss
I did not mean that I am concerned about Nuku handing over control of Flexible Survival. Rather, I am concerned that the current coder will inevitably depart from the position and that, over iterations of future coders, any custom program will grow more and more impenetrable to support.

Either way, I hope that the concerns with Inform are solved soon and that we can continue to see active development for a long time to come.