June 15, 2016 1:58 PM   Subscribe

IF Only by Emily Short [prev.] highlights the new trend in Interactive Fiction (or Text Adventures, if you were born before 1990) for games that use parsers but also manage to be reasonable simple to play by providing limited options in clever ways. Among the highlights she points out are Kerkerkruip which is a rogue-like interactive fiction game, Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom a "faux-retro adaptation of a nonexistent 1979 text adventure" where you play as a dumb barbarian, and Midnight. Swordfight. in which the story takes the form of a stage play. If you want to get more into the weeds, Short also suggests this interesting article on narrow parsers with many more examples.
posted by blahblahblah (17 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
Dropped my lantern at Y2, stumbled through a maze of passages all the same, the magic word (xyzzy) fails to work and was killed by a both Gruel and a mean dwarf.
posted by sammyo at 2:04 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Always love to see interactive fiction discussed on Metafilter. Thanks for giving me some new (free) games to check out!
posted by zeusianfog at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom is by the inimitable pen-and-paper RPG designer S. John Ross and is basically the interactive fiction version of a really sweet picture of a shirtless barbarian airbrushed onto the side of someone's van.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Goddammit...back down this rabbit hole! Hours of my life gone!

I mean, thanks for posting.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:43 PM on June 15, 2016

I am likely to be eaten by my wife.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:44 PM on June 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Is there an IOS parser/launcher? 'Cause these are screaming to be played during my train ride commute.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2016

You want Frotz for iOS.
posted by murphy slaw at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

You used the word "write" in a way I don't understand.


Metafilter begins to glow softly. Slowly, ornately, the words of the new post are inscribed, glowing even more brightly then the site itself. The site's brightness fades, but the post remains! However, the scroll on which it was written vanishes as the last word is copied.
posted by christopherious at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

Got me wondering about history of print IF and recalling the TutorText series of books by Doubleday. Which led me to this this article recalling the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the late 70s. And a mention of Jorge Luis Borges 1941 short story "The Garden of Forking Paths". Further leading to this ginormous database at Gamebook.

At any rate, I suspect such IF existed in print before Borges. Ideas?
posted by Twang at 4:04 PM on June 15, 2016

You want Frotz for iOS.

I want Frobnitz for iOS. I still think it's the best interpreter I've ever used. Being able to tap on any noun in text and see a contextual list of verbs to use with it is killer. RIP, my Palm III
posted by bonaldi at 4:47 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ho! I take it back, you can now do this in Frotz! (at least, you can double tap a word to retype it) See you in three years, folks.
posted by bonaldi at 4:50 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Treasures is a TADS game, so it won't work with Z-Machine interpreters like Frotz and Frobnitz. I don't think there's a TADS interpreter for iOS, which kind of sucks.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:18 PM on June 15, 2016

TOASK was written in Inform 7 (though it mangles the parser interface enough not to feel like it):
ToaSK runs on virtually any modern device (Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iPhones, Android and more) using the z-machine program of your choice
posted by murphy slaw at 5:34 PM on June 15, 2016

I loved Adventure on any number of pre-pc platforms, I think I had the poster of the full map at one point. Then more recently the first kickstarter I ever noticed was for a personal project Hadean Lands by Andrew Plotkin (prev), which I am ashamed to say I have not played very far but I received perhaps more aesthetic pleasure reading the status emails of his struggles with a personal project, the guy's got "grit", I highly recommend it to text game aficionados. But parser. No matter how good the parser is I just do not have much patience for the meta puzzle of how to respond to the actual puzzle. U/D/L/R/IN/OUT/XYZZY/NE/SW, pick up, or take or gimme or choose from a short menu of possibilities. Drives me, wait is "drive me" a valid keyword in this game?

So BIG DATA?!? There is amazing work on understanding what folks are saying, right Siri? The IF folks should be on the cutting edge of understanding "no that way" "no wait reverse" and other much less rigorous possibilities for data entry. I'm quite sure I'm not alone in wanting to dive into an exotic imaginary land but want to say "what's on the wall" and not have a generic, "plain wall" or "try asking another question".

Now that has got to be insanely hard to have a full database of all the objects in an actual "world". Perhaps the IF folks should try to build a single insanely complex opensource joint world that has lots of different "games" or "quests" but ongoing increasing detail grown. Is there a way to build a giant DB that does not have massive conflicts and delete wars and worse?

There are large data repositories available to train Machine Learning algorithms, could one of those be tuned to be a comfortable interface between the player and the game world?
posted by sammyo at 6:07 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Emily Short has actually been working on text generation for some time, sammyo. Her recent piece The Mary Jane of Tomorrow produces procedural limericks, and Annals of the Parigues, though non-interactive, is a tour de force of narrative generation. That wall won't always be plain; someday the program will be able to decorate it according to the personality and aesthetics of the homeowner.

(From what I can tell, Short's work uses context free grammars and clever state tracking rather than black box neural networks and All the Corpora - but that's fine by me. Plenty of unexplored territory in human-designed systems, which also seem to be more expressive and practicable given the current state of the art.)
posted by Iridic at 6:43 PM on June 15, 2016

There is amazing work on understanding what folks are saying, right Siri?

Siri et. al. are great at the speech-to-text part but under the hood they're not that much more sophisticated than an IF parser at judging intent. They just have broader corpuses of keywords and slightly more flexible understanding of grammar.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:06 PM on June 15, 2016

Versu is a project Emily was involved with that adds a bit of agency to NPCs. IIRC the player interacts primarily via multiple choice.

I also liked 80 Days quite a bit, and it limited your interaction to just a few verbs revolving around traveling, buying/selling, and conversation. Also since you play a man-servant, you have to groom your employer occasionally.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

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