Hadean Lands
November 1, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Plotkin is a genius. Spider and Web is the best IF I've ever played.
posted by unSane at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2010

The small screen form-factor of the iPhones is perfect for things like this, along with the not-bothering-others issue. It would be nice if he could branch this into other non-Apple devices (BB, Nokia, plain java?), so it could be used by more people on the subway etc.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:36 PM on November 1, 2010

This is fantastic news.
posted by Iridic at 6:43 PM on November 1, 2010

go zarf!
posted by bonehead at 6:46 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just in time, too.

I will feel slightly better about the world and the people in it if this man manages to make a living writing and coding text adventures. Godspeed!
posted by griphus at 6:48 PM on November 1, 2010

Wonderful! I have fond memories of playing Hunter, in Darkness, and I'd love to see a renaissance of IF on mobile devices; story-games like these are a perfect match for small, anywhere-anytime platforms. And this:

# I'll release my iPhone game framework as open source. Anybody will be able to use it to put IF in the App Store.

Why, that's just what we need to make it happen! I'll toss in $25 this week (I don't have an iPhone, but I still want to play, so that limited-edition disc sounds like a winner).
posted by vorfeed at 6:56 PM on November 1, 2010

Spider and Web

Sadistic fucker.

There is now a native Kindle Z-machine emulator which is awesome, and much handier than the web-based version linked to above if your 3G reception is as lousy as mine is on the train, though it's a bit tricky to get running and you've got to install a jailbreak and so on. Unfortunately, there's no Glulx interpreter that I know of yet.
posted by enn at 7:01 PM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is wonderful. I will certainly be buying a copy as soon as it is released.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:06 PM on November 1, 2010

If he ports it to PC, I'll buy it in a heartbeat. He's written some awesome stuff, and is almost certainly the best-known modern IF creator.

It looks like he's planning to port Glulx to the iPhone, so I presume we'll be able to buy the story file for other devices. It would suck if it were iPhone only.
posted by Malor at 7:19 PM on November 1, 2010

posted by JHarris at 7:21 PM on November 1, 2010

When people say games aren't art, Andrew Plotkin is one of the first people I think of (Emily Short and Adam Cadre being the other two).
posted by bonehead at 7:24 PM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

I wish he'd port System's Twilight to iPad. I mean, I can understand not wanting to revisit long-finished projects, but man! What a great game it was.

Sadly, my girlfriend asked him at PAX East, and he was pretty definite it wouldn't happen.
posted by rifflesby at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2010

I've been trying on-and-off for years to get a group together for Capture the Flag With Stuff.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 7:36 PM on November 1, 2010

If he ports it to PC, I'll buy it in a heartbeat. He's written some awesome stuff, and is almost certainly the best-known modern IF creator.

If you pledge $25 or more on Kickstarter, you can get the limited edition, which will contain the story files, playable on near anything.
posted by zabuni at 7:37 PM on November 1, 2010

Eeeeeeee! Andy! He is awesomely creative. I'm so glad he's so successful right now.
posted by rednikki at 7:38 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I dunno how many MeFites have actually tried writing IF (it sounds as though a few of you have) but it's INCREDIBLY FUCKING HARD. I did it for a while professionally during the heyday, at a time when you had separate writers and coders. Recently I downloaded INFORM and tried my hand at it again but the bar has been raised so high by the likes of Andrew and Emily and the others that I realized it was going to consume far more time than I had available to get out anything that could compare. The tools are fantastic now but you really have to pull off something experientially awesome to compete with these guys ... something which flips the player on their head. I mean, play SPIDER AND WEB and then tell me you could ever feel quite the same way about a linear-time piece of IF again.
posted by unSane at 7:53 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Such great news. While you're waiting check out Frotz interpreter for the Iphone. Also, third generation Ipod Touches are going for about $150 now, in case you don't need HD video (the latest Ipod Touch) or a monthly data contract, but want to play with some cool stuff.
posted by mecran01 at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2010

I tried writing IF, after being a decently long-term player, when Inform 7 came out. It was finally an unintimidating language for me as a non-programmer to play around with. Then I realized how goddamn long things took to write, script, and then re-write because there was no way I was implementing 30 rooms for my first game.

I have a hallway, with a couch and some magazines on a table. That's as far as I got. At some point I realized that writing IF was fundamentally different than any other type of writing I'd done until then and the standard approaches weren't going to work. Now I'm so busy I'm falling behind on my reviews of this year's comp.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:18 PM on November 1, 2010

I'm fantasizing about a world where Andrew owns a strand of islands in the South Pacific and J. K. Rowling has to do the Books-A-Million circuit to make ends meet.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh awesome!

I was working at my first job out of school when we hired Mr. Plotkin. Lord knows how we got him (it was certainly NOT a game job), but he was fun to have around.

I remember that he was the only coworker between myself and the water cooler that understood why I was singing "They got the muuuuuuustard oooooooooout!" while walking to it one morning.
posted by Phredward at 8:23 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm delighted to see he's making a pro go of it. It restores my faith in the possibility of creativity being an avenue to earning a living. Too bad we don't live in Pittsburgh anymore, I miss our peripheral contact with the whole crew.
posted by meinvt at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2010

I knew Andy a long time ago when we were on the Montgomery County math team together. It's probably been 20 years since I've seen him but I've followed his progress with great pleasure. I remember that in high school or early college he had an amazing and ridiculous short game which looked like a Zork-style adventure, but after a few moves it mentioned that you needed to use the bathroom, and you walked all around trying to find a place to go, with the need growing more and more urgent, but each attempt to >pee or >go to the bathroom yielded "Are you kidding? This would be an inappropriate place to do that!" until after thirty or so moves your bladder exploded and you died. And you played this game for AN HOUR because he really did put in a lot of intriguing locations and it FELT like if you just found the right place to piss you could play onward. But there was no place to piss and you couldn't play onward. It was just a joke. I know the stuff he's done since then is more artful and ambitious but that game will always be special to me.
posted by escabeche at 9:08 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(This sort of deserves its own thread somehow but despite (or in some twisted way because of) its lack of poplularity, the one thing that IF design does better than almost any other medium out there is ambition. It's hard not to play one of the IF competition finalists and *not* have a HOLY FUCK moment. That's kind of the whole point. No-one really gives a shit for your lavishly described and articulated environment -- what IF players are (mostly) looking for is something which takes advantage of the first person environment to really fuck with your head.

The game I was trying to write (and put to one side) was called REMEMBRANCE. The player was an old man suffering from Alzheimers who was trying to remember his life before he died. His environment was full of artefacts which triggered memories ('REMEMBER THE SHELL') but his memory was faulty so it was only by playing through a particular memory correctly that you would be able to make everything consistent and understand what had really happened to him/you. I just didn't have time to finish it but the IF model allow you to explore something like this in a way which is quite impossible in linear fiction.

(And yeah, it was heavily influence by SPIDER AND WEB. You can't get away from Plotkin. He's just there.)
posted by unSane at 9:32 PM on November 1, 2010

A world in which Plotkin is working full-time on IF is the world I want to live in. I just threw in $25.
posted by Zed at 9:35 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


9:05 (Java).

Go on. It will only take a minute or two.
posted by bonehead at 9:35 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't even have to see the website to know this will be fantastic. I'm only sorry I missed the chance to donate $1,000 and have him bring me cookies :(
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:38 PM on November 1, 2010

"I'd be the best IF author ever! If only I could program. Oh well."
"Use Inform 7. You don't need to know how to program."
"You don't actually have any ideas, do you?"
"Shut up."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:18 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another cool niche I've been oblivious of, signed up, wish him luck. We should have a Boston meetup, invite Andrew and toast him. He must have a cool garret under rent control if he's going to last a year in Cambridge on $13k.
posted by sammyo at 5:37 AM on November 2, 2010

Why can't I lick the workbench? I want to lick the workbench!
posted by Splunge at 5:56 AM on November 2, 2010

Oh good. For a moment I feared that the post was going to end '...has died'.

Best of luck, Zarf.
posted by run"monty at 6:06 AM on November 2, 2010

Boston area folk should know that Plotkin's one of the principals in the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction, which, on Halloween, played The Lurking Horror, followed by touring some of the sites on MIT that inspired the locations in the game with Dave Lebling. Those lucky, lucky nerds.

San Francisco Bay area folk should know the Bay Area Interactive Fiction Group is meeting this Saturday. There are also groups in Seattle and Chicago.
posted by Zed at 7:14 AM on November 2, 2010

He's at over $14,000 now, but with only 236 contributors. People are averaging $60 each. That's really impressive.
posted by Zed at 7:18 AM on November 2, 2010

When I donated, he'd had at least one person donate $1000. The donation gift was that he'd come and bake cookies for you. I'd a been tempted.
posted by bonehead at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just tried Spider and Web, but didn't make it very far. I couldn't open the door in the alley I started in, so I walked out of the alley. Now I'm imprisoned in an interrogation chamber and some dude is telling me I shouldn't have gone through the door. But... I didn't. Very confused.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 9:34 AM on November 2, 2010

Hover for hint.
posted by unSane at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2010

Zarf is a genius when it comes to having fun in a nerdy way. His homepage features interactive fiction and other computer games he's created, riddles, discussions of Mafia/Werewolf variants and other unusual party games that will make you wish you'd been in his dorm in college, a Martian Landscape art generator, directions for making a glowing wizard's cloak, designs for customized Rubik's cubes, insightful reviews of commercial games, and lots more.
posted by straight at 11:26 AM on November 2, 2010

Ah, I get it. I guess this is how it often works in Guantanamo Bay interrogations, too. There are five lights.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:11 PM on November 2, 2010

"Shade" was the first computer game that ever truly frightened me. Doom and Half-Life had their moments, but waiting for demons and headcrabs to jump around the next corner is more suspense than actual fear. "Shade" skipped all that and went straight for pure existential dread.

The scariest video game will always be scarier to me than the scariest movie. Watching a dumb teenager wander off to the abandoned boathouse to investigate some strange noises is bad. Being the dumb teenager, and hearing the noises from the boathouse, and knowing exactly what's in there, and having to go in anyway—that's worse. The interactivity is a false choice—if I don't go in, the game doesn't progress; pausing your DVD won't save the cocky blonde quarterback—and the outcome is just as inevitable as the film's, but it hits me on a much deeper level, because I'm the one making it happen.

Back in to 2005 or so, I stayed up 'til 3 a.m. playing "Shade," and by the end I was typing commands one-handed, sitting as far back from the computer as I could, my face turned halfway away. Because I was there, in that apartment, dreaming of the desert, consumed with dread.

False or not, the interactivity of gaming is a shortcut to immersion that artists in other media can only dream of. Video games offer a lot more to the horror genre than mainstream producers tend to exploit, leaving indie developers to pick up the slack. (And they have: Frictional is four or five guys working from home, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent is so scary it will shit your pants for you.)

I'm not sure if I've played any of Plotkin's other games, but he's obviously an artist who knows his medium and a man who knows his audience, and if that's not worth this week's beer money, I don't know what is.
posted by Zozo at 12:14 PM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

With 382 contributors and 29 days to go, Plotkin has now been pledged <drevilvoice>tens of thousands of dollars.</drevilvoice>
posted by Zed at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2010

As a Kickstarter success story, Plotkin's now being asked advice on how to make your Kickstarter campaign succeed. His answer will offer little comfort to any get-rich-quickers.
First, spend fifteen years working hard on projects with no reward but community good-will.
posted by Zed at 10:05 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

An update from Andrew: The Hadean Lands story flew around the gamer press right away. Everything since then has been word of mouth. Fantastic, enthusiastic, helpful word of mouth -- but inevitably low-volume word of mouth. I've pushed the story at some of the literary, science-fiction, and fandom news sites, but it hasn't grabbed. Nor is it much of a business story, except for that one (very gratifying) blog repost on CNNMoney.

Therefore: if you think that IF is cool, mention me to your non-gamer friends. I think this project has the potential to reach book-readers, e-book-readers, watchers of smart TV, followers of online narrative projects -- the border between old and new media. Who do you know?

Yes, it's early. I'll come around when the game is released, and try to reach the same people all over again. But that's the future, and this is the last Kickstarter week, so now is when I'm asking.

posted by vorfeed at 10:59 PM on November 29, 2010

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