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SOAT update #91 - Year 14 (a bit late)
Posted By: gremlinn, on host
Date: Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 01:42:09
In Reply To: SOAT update #90 - Year 10 posted by gremlinn on Monday, February 15, 2010, at 20:02:51:

Wow! I didn't realize it has been over 4 years since I made an update in this thread. (Note: this is 20 days late for a true year marker post, but I think it's still close enough.)

SOAT's 13 years old? Damn teenager. Pretty soon he'll be going off to college or the Army or something.

Sadly from a pure-numbers perspective, this update may come as a disappointment, but I'm going to make slow amends for the long stalled periods since 2010 (not all my fault...actual paid 40 hr/week work sucks a lot of energy AND time away from this sort of thing).

Thought I'd reminisce a bit and read over some of the older updates and comment on them:

From SOAT update #28 (November 4, 2002):
"Latest numbers: 451 locations, 6337773 bytes(14052 per location). 205732 lines of code. As I mentioned in some other post, I have extended the game's storyline far beyond the scope of what I had first intended. That scope is now fairly rigidly defined, so the scenes I now conceive as being the game's ultimate ending will without fail be the true end, something I couldn't have said a year ago."

This is the oldest update in which the scope of the game as I envisioned it then is still how I envision it now. I said "without fail" at that point (which I probably should have been more cautious about, given my prior record of making estimates) and it's been a relief for a long time that this hasn't changed, so now perhaps I could really feel justified in saying it.

From SOAT update #28 again:
"You have no idea how tired I am of this game, and the prospect of having to work for another year or two before you can all play it is not a happy one. But the hope that it will all be worth it in the end keeps me going. If only I live long enough. I think a release year of 2005 is probably the most likely, now."

That sounded pretty negative, huh? I'd only been at work on the game for a little over 1.5 years, and another 1-2 years seemed like a long way to go. Now, if someone (say, my future self) told me I had 1-2 years left, I'd take that as the light at the end of the tunnel! And even without that assurance, a mere 1-2 years feels almost negligible, which I suppose is because my mindset has really changed on this to being an extremely long-term project. That's not to say I think the projected completion date continues to extend further into the future faster than the advance of time itself, as it did for the first few years. I think I really could finish in 2 years from now, if I quit my job, stayed super-motivated, and had the energy to work 12-16 hours a day on it like I did early on for long stretches.

In any case, I certainly no longer feel "tired of the game" as I did before. I'm as certain as ever that this game will be completed (barring unforeseen fatal accidents, universal heat death, etc.) I've had *very* long stretches in the past few years with very little progress, mainly due to work, but secondarily due to feeling that a lot of the latter third of the game feels somewhat "arbitrary" in the linkage of puzzle design, and I keep delaying progress in certain areas, thinking, "I need some more time to let the ideas come, so I get the 'right' design for this part. I could make up some stuff and throw it all together, but what if I get better ideas later?" I think I have a while to go to fully get past that, and it will get easier as the number of places where new things can fit in place decreases.

From SOAT update #31 (March 1, 2003):
"Latest numbers: 6953122 bytes, 459 locations (15148 bytes/location). Let's see, what else...230579 lines of code. I'm paying attention to that for comparison's sake, because I read somewhere that someone had a fairly large IF game with over a quarter million lines of code, so that's a nice milestone. (Of course, the size of each line of code differs from system to system and from author to author, so it's not all that great a comparison.)

"Who knows -- at the rate it's going this game just might end up being the largest text game ever (well, for games with just one author). Hard to find reliable information about it though."

I'm kind of hazy about which game I was referring to back then (or if I'm even remembering the "quarter million" number correctly). It may have been "Once and Future" (TADS, 1998) by G. Kevin Wilson. Anyway, it seems there was a pretty huge IF work written much more recently -- "Blue Lacuna" (Inform 7, 2009) by Aaron A. Reed:

Whipped out in a mere 3 years (give or take, I only see the start/end of 2006-2009 noted), the author describes the work as "comprising nearly 400,000 words of prose and natural language source code." I'm not sure if that makes it larger than the one I'd remembered having heard had over a quarter million lines of code, but I'll give it to him. Your days as record-holder may continue far into the future, but they are (finitely) numbered, Mr. Reed! Muha. Ha.

(Damn, now someone's going to Google this and write a quick script to generate a massively degenerate 50 GB set of files that's technically a game, just to spoil things for everyone....)

Anyway, believe it or not, making a ~2 million word, ~20 MB (possibly greatly inaccurate projections, but current size is 16,633,939 bytes) text adventure game was never my intent. Baby steps of adding a little here, a little there, and an occasional "whole lot there" just kept piling on, like an addiction -- not to make the game bigger, but fill in directions I needed the game to grow in to feel complete and keep my enthusiasm up. (In fact, perhaps *months* of development time has been spent so far reworking parts of the game originally coded in AGLL to take advantage of Smash compactness in places where this was not strictly necessary, greatly reducing the code size.)

From SOAT update #64 (May 1, 2006):
"Most importantly, I wrote the final area of that fairly large structure I mentioned in the post on April 1, something I had been picking away at since 4/2/2001, a span of 1877 days, so for the first time I'll be able to completely play through that without any temporary "skip over this" code. That's one less thing to keep in mind so I can better prepare to tackle the game's largest structure, which I've been doing a bit at a time for over 4.5 years now but which still has about 40% to go."

This "largest structure" is the main setting for a lot of the game design which as mentioned above has long felt nearly too arbitrary in some respects, so I've only chipped away at it and most new work has been in other areas. (Sigh, *still* about 40% to go, or 30% if I get to include things I've roughly designed but not coded yet. I'd be done with it in 3 months if I cast aside my design doubts, based on how much time was spent on the first 60%.)

From SOAT update #71 (February 15, 2007)
Currently at 12920349 bytes, with 1490 Smash files and 356171 lines of code. Lately I have been in the beginning stages of making an in-game glossary of people/places/terms which will minimize the impact of forgetting game details (probably more important for a game that will take weeks to play through at the very least) and perhaps give more background information not necessary for winning the game.

Wow...I'd never have guessed the glossary would contribute so much to stalling my progress -- I'm *still* not finished on getting the glossary up to date with the currently implemented story. The glossary files alone (41 files, 2,750,162 bytes) are probably bigger than any other text adventure game -- to be fair, maybe I should subtract this and other text (like "chapter reviews") from the game size for purposes of comparisons. I plan on making solid progress on this in the near future, though. And once I'm caught up, work on the glossary will stay concurrent with adding new "actual" prose to the game, the rest of the way.

One reason for the delay on this (besides raw size) is largely due to the complexity of making a glossary entry always read well, despite the numerous possible combinations of sentences/paragraphs which it could potentially comprise depending on what the player has done/seen (drawback of non-linear gameplay).

Anyway, please reply with any comments/questions. Your interest helps keep my enthusiasm up, which keeps the release date closer! :)

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