Thursday, April 23, 2015

Source code of a work of IF older than ADVENT recovered

Just wanted to share what I thought was an exciting bit of IF-archeology conducted by "Ant" of Retroactive Fiction.  The author claims to have the source-code for a game called Wander, that's supposed to predate Crowther and Woods' ADVENT.

The story, which is more complex than my summary does justice, is told nicely in his blog -- I'm just sharing here because I noticed it isn't listed on Planet IF and thought more people might be interested.

Monday, December 05, 2011

It could be called something like "The Curse", or "Recursive", or ... "Curses"

I can't really justify it, but I've been reading a book called American Exorcism and I came across this:

I first heard about the concept early on in my research, when I met with a former Episcopal pastor who was working as a car salesman in Maryland. He told me that for much of his life he'd had enormous difficulty sustaining personal commitments.


"I'd gone through some really tough times, broken vows, broken promises, a sense of never being in charge of my life," he said. "At times it was terrible. During the first few months of my marriage it was if there were three of us in bed--my wife, myself, and some Evil Presence. [Healing the Family Tree by Kenneth McAll] opened my eyes; it helped me resolve these conflicts. I learned that an entire family line can be cursed by demons. Somehow this evil gets into the family, and then it's passed on generationally. Generation after generation is contaminated by it, unless steps are taken to break the curse, to purify the familial lineage."

Someone should write a work of IF based on that idea.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, to modernize adventure games

Allow me to break my silence to share a recent post on PC Gamer.

In an interview titled for his views on "Social Games" Jonathan Blow says quite a bit about adventure games and even levels a slight criticism against the modern IF community:

Adventure games are all confusion. If it’s text, it’s “Why doesn’t the parser understand me still?” So the core gameplay of adventure games is actually fumbling through something, right? And that’s true with modern [versions]. All the episodic stuff that’s coming out. And there’s a whole community that makes modern interactive fiction games and all this stuff. And it’s true for all these games. [emphasis mine]

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems to me that he's saying adventure games, and IF, are broken. Wait, no, he addresses that pretty clearly:

PC Gamer: A lot of fans of old-school point-and-click games would probably take instinctive offence – not at refining the genre – but at assuming that they are broken and inaccessible.

Jonathan Blow: Yeah, but it’s true. And I’m sorry, you know. I love those games.


Count me as instinctively offended; some of my most memorable gaming moments of the past two decades have been from IF. Of course, I have a bit of a selective bias problem.

Blow proposes to "fix" adventure games using his modern design sensibilities in an upcoming game called The Witness. I suppose we will have to wait to see how exactly he will fix things, but from the interview it seems that he will probe deeply philosophical and existential questions by giving the PC a case of amnesia.

Yeah, or you have amnesia or whatever! And then through the course of the game you find out who you are. Like, BioShock did that. Tons of games do that. This game does it but in a very self-conscious, self-referential kind of way.

That sounds totally new, or whatever.

Okay, perhaps I'm not the right person to dish out the snark as I haven't designed a single game in my life, and certainly could never make anything as remarkable as Braid (which I enjoyed, a lot) if I tried, but I find the whole interview to be a bit much. Of course there's no way to evaluate his claims until I've played the game (and I surely will), so time will tell.

Oh, he also says some stuff about morality and game design.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Interactive Fiction wave

As a contribution of questionable utility, I have created an Interactive Fiction wave. As of this posting all it consists of is a woefully incomplete link list, though any one who has a Google Wave account can feel free to add to it.

Interactive Fiction Wave

If you want an invite to Google Wave, I have about five left. Just let me know in the comments if you want one.

Monday, October 06, 2008

IFComp '08 Reviews: The Lighthouse

Nothing to see here, just spoiler / RSS padding. The juicy stuff is below the Read more! link. Which is below. I mean, below this paragraph. You'll have to look down a little. I can't give a precise measurement, I think it would depend on your display's resolution. I should probably get a generic space thing that I could copy and paste. But I... wait, are you still reading this? Are my reviews that comparatively boring?

Short Version: The most sparse game so far.
Number of Lighthouses I have Taken Lightly: 1
Score: 2

"The Lighthouse" by Eric Hickman and Nathan Chung is so sparsely implemented that it almost does not exist. Not that I think a count of locations and objects actually lends to aesthetic legitimacy or implies depth in IF, but:

Objects (counting doors): 12
Locations: 4

With that in mind, the introductions begins

"You walk up to the lighthouse. It's large wooden frame creaking in the wind. You then step in front of the door and knock. Silence. Then the door opens and reveals the face of Mr Webster."

I've been seeing this sort of thing a lot. Bearing in mind that I have not written any IF, and may never write any IF, allow me following advice: things that read like the output to a sequence of commands might best be left as... the output to a sequence of commands. If nothing else, in a work this small, it'd give it more of a chance for atmosphere and exposition.

All the locations I was able to discover consisted a list of the objects present. Examining those objects results in the stock reply of "You see nothing special about x".

>x crystal key
You see nothing special about the Crystal key.

I think the fact that the key is crystal is pretty remarkable. A little later the unremarkable crystal key opens a "wooden container". After opening the generic containing apparatus and performing the winning action the game does not actually terminate. It leaves you in a perpetual limbo like the original Myst, but sans conscious design decision.

Anyway, I cannot really recommend playing this one, or even rewriting it. There was no discernible authorial intent, no content to smooth out.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

IFComp '08 Reviews: Recess at Last

In this filler space I intend to show how space can be filled by typing a sufficient length of characters that will not spoil any part of the game I will be reviewing later. This will be done by filling writing in the style of an school essay, typing even more after that, and finally by obfuscating the rest of the post after the Read more! link below. In conclusion, I have wasted space by typing a lot and it has helped people to avoid being spoiled by padding out the RSS feed that gets included on Planet-IF.

Short version: A very polished, charming work, but studiously neutral.
Score: 6

I honestly do not have a lot to say about this one. The author, Gerald Aungst, clearly put a lot of care into it, from an attractive title screen to clever formatting and dialogue through-out. At its heart, I guess "Recess at Last" is essentially a puzzle piece with no larger ambitions, beyond perhaps a touch of nostalgia.

All the details (such as finding your backpack in the coat-room) were surprisingly spot-on, so I'm guessing Mr. Aungst is either a parent or remembers childhood exceptionally well. The writing was very competent, and I found no bugs to speak of, but I did not play it very thoroughly. It just is not a genre that grabs me, and I did not find any interesting or surprising viewpoints on childhood. Even so, the extremely solid presentation merits a fairly high score. It is not unpleasant in any way to play, and someone who likes this sort of thing would like this one probably quite a lot.

Friday, October 03, 2008

IFComp '08 Reviews: LAIR of the CyberCow

No spoiler-space for this one: I simply cannot rate it. I attempted to play with Spatterlight and Zoom on Mac OSX, but there were simply too many bugs that were probably interpreter related. I cannot attempt with my linux box as it is broken, and I do not have a Windows box. If anyone can offer advice for running this before the competition is over, please let me know so that I may review it.

IFComp '08 Reviews: Trein

There is a review below which will contain spoilers. The review will only be visible after you click the "Read more!" link. This sentence, however, is visible now. And it will keep going on until it has reached approximately 393 characters. So I'm going to type a little more. And a little more. And this should just about cover it. Why have you read all this anyway? It would have been better to have scanned over it.

Short version: Long-winded prose fails to take advantage of the medium, much of what is mentioned is unimplemented. There are multiple endings, however, and the writing is mostly competent.
Rating: 4
Number of Unseelies Encountered in Prose to Date: 0

"Trein" by Leena Ganguli had a story to tell, but seemed to want to do so in prose rather than interaction. The first text-dump is about a screen long, and most of the initial descriptions span a very long paragraph. There were three endings (I was able to view all three within an hour), but the author did not seem to understand the mechanics of IF. Many of the text dumps could have been done as a longer, more interactive sequence. Prime example (and this is from one of the ending sequences, so don't read if you don't want some major spoilers):

As you enter the Waterway, a foul smell assaults your senses. You ignore it, however, as you know that however unpleasant this may be it could be nothing compared to remaining here at the mercy of whoever might wish to do you and your country ill. You edge your way along a stone walkway until you can go no further. As you reach the end, you see a channel cutting its way through the stone structure, with fast-flowing water that could carry you away in a heartbeat. Already, you feel its tug at your boots. Making sure that the precious cargo that you carry won't get wet, you dive in without thinking - you don't need to be reminded that this water carries the town's waste, and you try to ignore this particular fact.
I think it would have been much more effective to have to keep pushing your character forward through the muck, turn after turn as the text rebuffs you with descriptions of the smell, etc. Keeping the evidence dry could have been a minor puzzle in and of itself.

The puzzles that are actually in the game (the walkthrough notes them as puzzles) are very straightforward. The game also drops some pretty leaden hints on top of that:
You wonder if you should ask someone about him.

You could probably climb the wall if you had a rope.

As you make your way back to the South, towards the secret passage, you hear faint footsteps coming from that direction. Aware of danger, you feel it is best to avoid going this way.
And more of that sort.

The prose, while mostly confident (and again, long winded), had some peculiar moments and a couple of typos, but nothing major. Even if the author is steadfast about the long narrative chunks, more synonyms for the objects in the game would have been helpful, and much more thorough implementation of mentioned nouns would help.

The story felt like is was going to go a more supernatural direction than it actually did, and I admit to being a little disappointed. The game continually hinted at spirits and faeries, but actually contained only political intrigue. I am however thankful to the author for teaching me the word unseelie. I was previously unaware of such classifications.