Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How gender inclusion helped me proofread an abstract wordplay game

So when I decided to allow female characters for A Roiling Original, it was intended to be trivial, just as an exercise, so that I can finally say I didn't have all-male games. Even if the choice didn't affect gameplay.

But writing perl scripts to look through the random text (check for duplicates etc.) turned up some odd stuff. I had a lot of ways to check for anagrams, but one thing I hadn't done was to look at something like this.

"Lead Yon: No Delay[r], by [if player is male]Dean Loy & Leo Nady[else]Ola Endy[end if]"

Now, it's a decent exercise to have a flag in my checker-program to spear both the male and female options. But here's where something weird turned up.

When running -female, I still got a few flags than in "male" mode and couldn't explain why. The entries anagrammed themselves, but one was reported as a duplicate and the other wasn't.

The answer was that I was using a classifying-string to look at duplicates, but above I would have

Male: a4d4e4l4n4o4y4
Female: a3d3e3l3n3o3y3

And of course I was taking the GCD so the 4's and 3's became 1, wasn't I?

Oh no I wasn't.

It turns out I never suspected this might be a problem.  So, having cleared 1000+ anagrams as not heinously duplicating each other, I thought I'd get one final check--and it opened new problems. Well, I wanted to make sure of things.

But I didn't see it until, just to check everything, I wanted to make sure there were no bad female anagrams (e.g. if Ola Endy had been Lea Endy.) That's how bugs work--it stinks when a whole new area opens up, but it's worth it to know I saw something odd, found what was really wrong, and fixed it.

The work hasn't been too bad. It's more interesting than a boring mindless click and point game, and I'm turning up ideas and seeing what works and what is repetitive. And it was something I'd always wanted to do, to give the extra polish, but I put it off.

Flagging duplicates seems like chewing on grist, and it sort of is, but on the other hand, it's another way to get an idea to pop up when I don't expect it. You put in the work, something like this eventually comes to the surface. I just was a bit shocked to see so MUCH to re-re-check.

So gender inclusion was a good step for me, and if it isn't profound, it added complexity on my end. (I also am changing some NPC's gender for version 4. Again, I used automated means to see all the possible places that, say, the Smart Kid was. Then I grepped for "he|him|his" ... so I think I'm okay. But there may be a surprise there. I'll obviously need to run it by a tester.)

Now, I can't force gender inclusion for my IFComp game. The protagonist's name must be what it is, and so must a whole raft of NPCs'. But I have a few things I think will be amusing, that provide gender twists without getting into sexuality. I won't be able to find enough, but I think it'll be harmless laughs. And my hope is one player will say "YOU FORGOT (THIS POSSIBILITY)!

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