September 30, 2001
6:56 PM   Subscribe

Remember Zork, Planetfall, and the other creations of late game company Infocom? Well, "interactive fiction," as the format is called, is still alive and well. Every year the IF community -- which is known for releasing work of quality far surpassing even Infocom's masterpieces -- holds a competition for short works, and this year's contestants have been released! Read this post's comments for more info...
posted by tweebiscuit (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you've never played any Interactive Fiction before, a good place to start is About's Guide to IF. The IF community primarily lives on the newsgroups rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction. Want to play a game but don't feel like braving the competition entries just yet? Try this IF starter pack for the PC, which includes an interpreter and two games. Enjoy!
posted by tweebiscuit at 7:04 PM on September 30, 2001


I remember playing a game that was entirely text based, but came in an extremely elaborate package that included a map, and a plastic "stone" that glowed in the dark. Wizard's Stone or something like that.

I begged my dad to get it for me when he brought me along to Egghead software - this must have been around 84 or so. I was too young to get into it then, but I rediscovered it in high school.

As I recall, it was far more enjoyable than most computer games.

So thanks for the link! I'm downloading all the games as I type this. Finally, games I can play through Virtual PC!
posted by aladfar at 8:36 PM on September 30, 2001


It was called "Wishbringer," if you're interested.

Glad I could help! Interactive fiction is an amazing meeting of literature and gameplay -- I find it extremely satisfying.

Keep in mind, though, that a great many of the competition games are unlikely to be very good -- it is, after all, a competition, and there's a lot of dross. The starter pack I linked above contains "Curses," largely considered the first work of "modern" IF, and "Unkuulia Unventure," a creative and well written dungeon crawl. For people with no time to play bad games, I recommend them.
posted by tweebiscuit at 9:13 PM on September 30, 2001


Wishbringer!!! I had that game for the C64. it was hard. of course, i was 8 or so.

I haven't really gone back to it; but one day i plan on dragging out the ol' commie and playing all my old games -- California Games, Roadrunner, Gauntlet, that monster destructo game -- er -- yeah. the c64 was really the last computer i actively bought games for. and man, most of them were worth it, it seems. none of this FPS/RTS redux redux redux crap.

i've actually been again regaining interest in my NES (i was a big collecting fan about two years ago, and amassed a massive collection of weird bibletree games and other rarities when these sorts of things could still be had for 1-2 dollars. ) I bought TECMO baseball (and a port of Joust that's really not done too well, but works.) and there's something about the simplicity that's reassuring -- played it all day. i don't know -- there's something about the complexity of modern games that really gets to me -- maybe i'm getting old.

i guess i could use an emulator -- but it's not the same.

i don't know if i'm a huge fan of Infocom or if per se, but my favorite non-game had to be 'The Manhole' -- where there weren't any puzzles to really solve; just stuff to discover. there was another in the same vein that was quite good. also; fool's quest.

yeah.
posted by fishfucker at 9:21 PM on September 30, 2001


Fool's Quest? Do you mean Fool's Errand, the Cliff Johnson puzzle game? And yes, I remember the Manhole... played that in elementary school, and was later shocked to discover that it was designed by the MYST brothers...
posted by tweebiscuit at 9:32 PM on September 30, 2001


i was never all that attracted by IF stuff when i was playing games in the '80s. i guess i wasn't patient enough for them. i used to play a game called ulysses: the golden fleece. or something like that. it was alright. but otherwise, i mainly stayed with old school RPGs like wizardry, the bard's tale, ultima, might and magic. it's so sad: i look at might and magic 8, and i can say i started playing games in the series since the first one.

since some people speak of IF as though it were literature, if possible you should check out wizardry 6 and 7, designed by D.W. Bradley. those games came as close to literature as a role playing game of any era can get, i think. and i know a lot of people hold wasteland by interplay in the same regard (i have yet to complete it). it's really sad how games have fallen since then.

my fantasy job: game designer. i'd love to take this industry and turn it on its ear.
posted by moz at 9:49 PM on September 30, 2001


moz: wouldn't we all? ;)

I'm surprised more of these games aren't handled through a web interface, although I suppose all the applets would get just as annoying as all the interpreters. Thanks for the recommendations, tweebiscuit – this is a form I've always wanted to poke around in, but never really knew a good place to start. The last one I played was the hitchhiker's guide game.
posted by D at 10:06 PM on September 30, 2001


bleh. you're right, twee-b: fool's errand. hmm. you know, now that D mentions net games,it seems there was an IF i really got into:MUDs. I can't quite recall which one i was playing (it was ... 92? maybe?) but it seemed to have a lot of hard-working programmers who coded some really quite intricate quests; incredibly descriptive. It was probably one of the more advanced text-only based games i've ever seen, and, uh, interactively, was probably about the most my XT with it's little 1200 baud modem could handle. (actually, i lie, there was some space flight game i played over a modem at some point.) Anyhoo, i probably spent 4 to 6 hours a day tying up our phone line playing it. Other text based games that forced themselves into a phone line and sucked up a significant part of my life: TradeWars.
posted by fishfucker at 10:23 PM on September 30, 2001


Fool's Errand is available as abandonware at Home of the Underdogs. The site also boasts lot of fine IF.

The reason IF isn't distributed through the web is complicated. Most modern IF is written with one of two authoring systems: Inform, which actually runs on the old Infocom virtual machine (more on that later), and TADS. Both of these have built in parsers and libraries, so the author of the game only has to construct the "world." This is, of course, incredibly useful. The other major advantage of these systems is that they can be played on any OS -- almost every platform has an interpreter for the game files, so the author only has to compile one file. The IF community is known for writing interpreters for every platform imaginable -- there are Inform interpreters for the Apple IIe, the old Tandys, and yes, even the PalmOS. You can play IF on your palm! It's amazing! The Inform interpreter will also run old Infocom games, so if you can find the data files for them (I have a small collection) you can play them on whatever computer you have. I recently completed Planetfall on my Palm, for instance.

The reason IF is compared to literature is that -- well, basically, it is literature of a sort. There are a great many phenomenol writers in the community, and though IF hasn't found its Doestoevsky yet, the best IF is at least as well written as the average novel. One prominent author, Adam Cadre actually is a novelist, while others are college professors, etc.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2001


hmm. reminds me of another mac great -- WorldBuilder.

yep. home of the underdogs is great -- esp. for new shareware/freeware games that manage to fall through the cracks.

twee -- are you saying the development packages are widely available??? i seem to recall a script-based "adventure-game" authoring tool that existed several years back .. perhaps i'll do some looking around here.
posted by fishfucker at 10:58 AM on October 1, 2001


i don't know about development packages, but i remember seeing some scripts that were used to program IF games. i think if you look at if-archive you would find some samples -- otherwise, you're just a google search away.

it would be tempting to program a web interface for the z-machine, or something, but i've got a few projects i'm working on already...
posted by moz at 11:35 AM on October 1, 2001


moz, there's already a Java z-machine IIRC.

FF -- yes, Inform and TADS are both freeware. (I'm not sure if the other dev systems, such as Hugo, etc., but frankly, no one uses them. Every significant modern IF work has been done in either Inform or TADS.) Here's The Inform homepage and TADS.org. Both of these systems can do just about anything -- quite a few action games have been written for Inform's virtual machine, albeit with ASCII graphics. They are both fully featured programming languages, customized to IF's needs and including huge standard libraries that automate nearly every standard IF command. ("get", "look", "save", etc.) The libraries are also rewritable by the author, so game authorship can range anywhere from "I made a bunch of rooms with objects in them" to "I fundamentally rewrote the way the model world works" to "I got rid of the model world and replaced it with a Tetris game."
posted by tweebiscuit at 2:23 PM on October 1, 2001


moz, there's already a Java z-machine IIRC.

FF -- yes, Inform and TADS are both freeware. (I'm not sure if the other dev systems, such as Hugo, etc., but frankly, no one uses them. Every significant modern IF work has been done in either Inform or TADS.) Here's The Inform homepage and TADS.org. Both of these systems can do just about anything -- quite a few action games have been written for Inform's virtual machine, albeit with ASCII graphics. They are both fully featured programming languages, customized to IF's needs and including huge standard libraries that automate nearly every standard IF command. ("get", "look", "save", etc.) The libraries are also rewritable by the author, so game authorship can range anywhere from "I made a bunch of rooms with objects in them" to "I fundamentally rewrote the way the model world works" to "I got rid of the model world and replaced it with a Tetris game."
posted by tweebiscuit at 2:24 PM on October 1, 2001


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