If you've yet to check out the new Inform 7, "A Design System for Interactive Fiction Based on Natural Language," you really need to do so.
Back when I was a wee lad with access to an assortment of Commodore 64, Apple ][, and Atari 800 computers, text adventures pretty much had me in their thrall. I loved to play them, getting lost for hours in all that Infocom and others had to offer. I also loved to write them - if only for myself, with rooms plotted out on green-lined gridpaper and engines implemented in clumsy BASIC and LOGO.
Since then, I've returned now and then to see what's going on in that world. In the intervening years, the whole field has reinvented itself as "interactive fiction," and hobbyists have reverse engineered a number of classic game engines. They've picked up where defunct companies left off and pursued even further development.
I've not gone back to write any further adventures of my own, though I've peeked in at the authoring tools from time to time. For the most part, things seemed just obscure and weird-edged enough to leave me thinking I might better spend my time learning more about Python or even Lisp. I've played some of these modern games over the years, though, and there's quite a bit of great writing talent at work out there.
But now, this: Inform 7. This is a world-building environment built by and for writers. The truth of this is embedded in every facet of it - from the mind-bogglingly cool natural language in which worlds can be described, to the painstakingly elaborated documentation, to the fully narrated and apologized-for error messages.
In sharp contrast to my past toe-dippings into interactive fiction authoring - and even MOO / MUD citizenship - this system compells me to use it. It makes me want to write stories and describe worlds.
And, most amazing of all: This is
Open Source software . (Update: Turns out it's not totally Open Source, but it's beer-free at least.)
Of course, I've found great annoyance in the past with languages like AppleScript and Lingo - both of which attempt to follow some sort of natural language patterns, yet only result mockeries of all language. I haven't dug deep enough into Inform 7 to tell if I'll reach this same point of frustration. So far, though, it seems promising from the little I've thrown together in a morning's coffee and in the examples I've browsed at lunch.
Maybe one of these stories in my head will find it's way out this way.