It's been a whole month since my last release of Le Morte D'Arthur, and you might wonder what I was doing all that time. Well, there were plenty of distractions, but the basic problem was that I was building a big chunk, and here it is at last. There are 98 verbs in this version, a big increase. They implement the battle scene, actually a minor part of the overall Le Morte D'Arthur design, but so simple and modular that I thought it would be easy to slap together. It was, I suppose, but there were a number of unanticipated problems.
The first and easiest problem was learning how to write tinkertoy text fast. In the early days, I wasted a lot of time fretting over this stuff. Later on I got good at developing permutations of a single idea. In this I was assisted -- a little -- by Erasmus' "De Copia.Verborum et Rerum" ("On Copia of Words and Ideas"), a handbook on how to take a simple idea and fluff it up into 23 zillion variations. Nowadays we tend to look askance at this kind of writing, but it turns out to be perfect for tinkertoy text. The only problem is that Erasmus uses lots of high-faluting medieval terminology (catachresis, metalepsis, synecdoche, etc). It's a tough slog, but at least it's short. And there were a few interesting ideas buried in there, of a kind that you simply can't find in modern literature. By the way, the book is available from Amazon.com and it's cheap.
Once I got the tinkertoy text in hand, I faced another problem: I couldn't run the battle as a conventional sequence of pairwise interactions between Arthur and his lieutenants. I can't remember the primary reason for this, but one reason was the inadvisability of showing actors' faces while in the midst of a battle. Supposedly they're a few hundred feet away and the closeups of their faces would surely confuse the player. In any event, my solution was rather clever (perhaps too clever by half): I set up the interaction between Arthur and Fate. Thus, Fate chooses one of Arthur's lieutenants and acts on him/her in such a way as to generate the desired action. For example, a typical sequence of events might read like this in raw Erasmalanguage: Fate PanicAndBabble Galahad; Arthur GetAholdOfYourself Galahad; Fate ImSorry Galahad. In doing this, Fate uses the same formulas that Galahad would have used; the only difference is that Fate is the subject of the events, not the lieutenant. Arthur witnesses the event and reacts to it as a witness. Anyway, this is one way to handle large-group interactions.
In general, large group interactions are a major pain in the butt in this system. Laura Mixon struggled for months with a party thread in Shattertown, and never could get it working properly. Now I see why. Getting everybody to the right stage at approximately the right time is really difficult. My solution was to set the TargetStage and then insert an appropriate delay, allowing everybody to show up. One other trick that wasn't available to Laura: I changed the engine to make it work better. That's one reason why I'm doing Le Morte D'Arthur: to experience its performance first-hand.
There's still plenty of tuning work to do to make this version work properly. The logic of the battle is still silly, but I'll improve it as I get the relationships entered.