About IFM

IFM is a language for keeping track of your progress through an Interactive Fiction game, and a program for producing various different sorts of output using it. You can record each room you visit and its relation to other rooms, the initial locations of useful items you find, and the tasks you need to perform in order to solve the game.

The IFM mapping commands are designed so that you can easily add to the map as you explore the game. You type in the rooms you visit and the directions you move in to reach other rooms, and IFM calculates the position of each room in relation to the others. A map can consist of several independent sections, allowing you to divide up the map however you like. See Making maps for details of how to make a map.

The IFM task commands, if used, allow you to specify the order in which game-solving tasks must be done. The IFM program can then calculate and print a high-level walkthrough of the game. See Solving the game for details of how to do this.

A more involved example of IFM in use throughout a complete game as it’s being played is given in Mapping and solving example.

Several output formats are available, including PostScript, Fig and ASCII text—these are described in Using IFM. Some of the output formats have a set of variables which control the appearance of the output—see Output variables.

IFM comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY. This is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions; see License for details.

A bit of history

When I started playing IF games, years ago, I did what many other people did—made a rough map on paper of where I’d explored, so I could see which directions I hadn’t tried yet. Inevitably, the maps always fell off the page and turned into a complete mess.

My first attempt at solving this problem was to make use of the tools I had available to draw the map for me. So I started typing the map network into a file, and wrote a small Perl script to convert the data into something that groff could read and draw a map from. I also added a way of recording which items I’d found, and whether I’d found a use for them yet.

As it stood, this worked quite well—it produced nice maps and lists of items so I could see where I’d got to. The only problem was that it was just as tedious making maps this way as on paper, since I had to work out the offset of each room relative to a fixed origin.

Eventually I decided that enough was enough. I wanted to be able to add stuff to the map as I played the game, without having to worry about offsets or anything irrelevant like that. Hence the main design criteria for IFM. The other criteria were easy—an input language, for flexibility and extendability, and a program for converting files in this language into different types of output.

Partway through writing the initial version of IFM, I had the idea that it would be nice to be able to somehow record not only the map and items found so far, but what’s been done to solve the game. The concept of tasks appeared, which immediately tripled the size of the program and caused all sorts of headaches.

But eventually it got to the stage where it might be worth releasing, so in June 1998 the first version appeared in the IF archive. And now, finally, it’s finished and I can go back to that IF game I was playing. [1]

Getting IFM

You can find IFM in the mapping tools directory of the IF archive. See the file INSTALL that comes with the IFM source distribution for build and installation details.


[1]Oh all right. Maybe one more feature...