Roger Firth's IF pages


Inform Beginner's Guide

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IF newcomers, especially those without much experience in computer programming, sometimes feel that learning about Inform is a rather daunting experience: there's so much to read in the Inform Designer's Manual, such a lot going on, so many new concepts to take on board, it's all too easy to make mistakes that trip up the compiler... in the early days, things can seem much harder than they actually are.

Inform Beginner's GuideThe Inform Beginner's Guide by Roger Firth and Sonja Kesserich is a tutorial intended to aid newcomers in mastering Inform 6. Instead of trying to describe the whole Inform system -- a job already done extremely well by the DM4 -- the IBG concentrates on a small subset, the topics which are most important on first acquaintance. It's downloadable now as a 284pp PDF from the Inform manuals page. (Note that both the IBG and the DM4 describe Release 6 of Inform; they do not cover Inform 7, which pioneers a radically new approach to IF authorship based on natural language definitions.)

Our approach is to teach you about Inform through the creation of three games: all short, all playable to completion. "Heidi in the Forest" is just about as simple as an IF game can be, but still manages to introduce a range of important concepts. "William Tell", a retelling of the famous folk tale, is nearly as brief but roams more widely in its use of Inform's capabilities. Finally "Captain Fate" presents a comic-book hero in urgent need of a change. The games are developed in stages; you'll learn most by typing them in as you work through the guide (or you can cut corners and download them in source form).

The IBG first appeared in April 2002, with a Second Edition in August of that year. The steady accumulation of readers' comments and corrections, together with changes necessitated by the release of Inform 6.3, have resulted in a Third Edition, published in August 2004. We thank everybody who has taken the trouble to write to us; the guide is all the better for your helpful feedback.

A translation into Italian can be found at Informazioni; at the moment this reflects the Second Edition, but work is in progress to update it.

Here are some readers' opinions:

The IBG didn't just show me how to use the language properly, but it also showed me how to care about those design details that a novice wouldn't even think of. I've read all of the articles on good game design, what not to do, etc. but the IBG showed me how to put all of that together. Nathan Ladd
I have to tell you, I've done pretty well learning with the IBG. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere if I'd gone straight into the DM4, but I actually have some confidence from doing the IBG lessons -- with no other programming experience. The Guide has a very clear and friendly approach, perfect for beginners. JDC
All I can say is... this is a marvelous document, and I am amazed by the amount of work that went into it. The DM4 is wonderful as well, and I would hardly think to deny it, but this escorts me through the language at a pace that is much more friendly and considerate, which I appreciate greatly. Carolyn Magruder
An excellent and very fluent introduction to Inform. Milos Radovanovic
I've had hours of fun with IBG ... really appreciate all the work that obviously went into it. Matty Bourne
... only your guide was a good logical and straightforward(!) entry point into Inform, especially for nonprogrammers. Joe Kirchgassner
So... you want to write the next Zork/HHGTTG/Lurking Horror. Or maybe you never played any of those games but you have a fresh story idea that is perfect for IF. Either way, this is the place to begin. The perfect (or for me ESSENTIAL) companion to DM4, this book will get you well on your way to writing your first game in INFORM. Ambrosine
I really enjoyed reading your IBG and feel that it is a great introduction to Inform. Rosemary Frezza
I want to take a moment to commend the two of you on an excellent job writing the Inform Beginner's Guide. I think it does exactly what you set out to do, and that is to make the daunting experience of learning the Inform language a much simpler and more enjoyable task. Brent VanFossen
For me the Beginner's Guide was Heaven sent. Paul Johnson
For quite a while I had set my mind on learning one of the two popular IF languages, but since my most recent coding experience dates back to the early 90s, the lack of any truly good, useful "beginner" documents kept delaying my plan. When I found the IBG, the decision which language to learn was suddenly answered: Inform, and nothing else. My sincere thanks for this easy-to-understand and entertaining guide. Michael Vondung
The IBG is one of the best tutorials I have ever used. Norvell Spearman
It was for the reason that Inform is well documented (DM4) and has such a neat introduction (your manual) that I decided to learn Inform instead of another IF language. I would never get through the Designer's Manual if I had not read your book first. Not because DM4 is poorly written but because it does not work well as a textbook. IBG complements DM4 very nicely but most importantly of all, it is a book with which one learns as he or she reads. Pavel Soukenik
Reading it? I've totally devoured it! Elise Stone


IBG errata

Of course, into every life a little rain must fall; these mistakes in the Third Edition have been spotted by our diligent readership, to whom we offer (slightly embarrassed) thanks:

If you have any corrections, comments or suggestions, please email one or both of us: and sk AT moth D0T jazztel D0T es. Thank you.