The full moon hanging directly overhead lights the dirt and gravel road that you are standing on. It colors everything around you in shades of blue-gray. The road dwindles to a nearby small clearing to the north and stretches to the south until it bends beyond thick evergreen trees about a hundred feet away. The forest skirts the west side of the road and it seems that you detect the slightest hint of movement in the darkness through the trees.
You’re standing in the middle of the road before a wrought iron gate. The gate is the only way past a nine-foot high brick wall which extends as far as can be seen, up and down the east side of the road. The right gate door is pushed open and hanging by only the lower hinge, as if it was violently slammed open years ago. The ground all around is littered with dead weeds. You see a gravel path beyond the gate, leading to a wide dilapidated porch with wooden columns. The porch belongs to a huge, dark, and ancient mansion.
There is a rolled up sheet of parchment sealed with wax lying on the ground.
That’s it. That’s all you get. There’s a prompt of some sort, waiting for your input. What do you input? “You” is what the story is about. What do you do? The story is presented to you by a computer program. Anyone playing an RPG such as Zelda or WOW explores humongous worlds breaking things, killing people and things, and collecting stuff. THAT is *kind of* the same thing here – just with words. You don’t move around with arrows and mouse moves. You “use your words” (as we would tell a toddler who grunts and grabs).
Notice that there were directions hinted at. Reading it again, you see that if you “go west”, you walk into a forest; “go east” you walk through an open gate; “go north” or “go south” and you will be further up or down a road. Exciting huh?
Yes, I’m being a bit flippant about that “exciting” part. But add this: “pick up scroll” (it says “rolled up sheet of parchment” but the program knows what you mean). “climb fence”, “climb tree”. Try everything. The fun part is that the program may understand you and you may end up with a sealed scroll in your hand or you may be on top of a fence. If you “break the seal” (after picking it up) there may be something very important to read. It may blow up in your face. Anyway, you get the picture. It’s an RPG with words. (I forgot to mention – RPG means Role-Playing Games, for those who thought I was talking about playing with rocket grenades or old IBM minicomputer languages.)
The SAGML book will be a set of rules and examples of how to manipulate general objects. YOU make up the objects and how they interface with “rooms” and other objects. It can be quite complex since you, the programmer, make up every aspect. Here’s an example: You can light a match. That takes two objects, an unlit match and a lit match. You can light a fuse – that takes a lit match touching an unlit fuse which lights and TRANSITIONS to a sputtering fuse leading to a stack of dynamite, which TRANSITIONS (via a loud explosion) to a black smear but spawns a gaping hole in the wall (thus there are two more objects – a wall and a wall with a gaping hole in it). Whew. That was a lot of work but the player experiences something that YOU wrote.
How do you do this, you ask (if you’ve read this far). Well… it’ll take a book to tell you.