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Emily Short

IF Only: Magnetic Scrolls In Your Browser

The Pawn: not good, but somehow fascinating

15

IF Only: Games of linguistic experimentation

Games where the language is the puzzle

10

1 year ago

Feature: IF Comp 2017

Interactive Fiction Competition 2017

Fans of interactive fiction! IF Comp 2017 is currently in progress, with 79 entries — the largest field in the competition's more-than-20-year history. The selection includes parser, choice, and hypertext stories, a PDF gamebook, a joke game from the perspective of the grues, two parser games of Viking-era menace, three branching narratives translated from Chinese, and a game where part of the intended play experience…

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2 years ago

Feature: The Pawn: not good, but somehow fascinating

IF Only: Magnetic Scrolls In Your Browser

Starting with The Pawn in 1985, Magnetic Scrolls wrote some very successful text adventures. I missed them the first time around. I was strictly an Infocom and Scott Adams player, tied to games released for the popular US platforms. Magnetic Scrolls started out on the Sinclair QL, then moved to Atari and Amiga versions. I don't think I even heard of Magnetic Scrolls in the…

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Feature: Games where the language is the puzzle

IF Only: Games of linguistic experimentation

Interactive fiction, especially parser interactive fiction, has a tradition of wordplay games: pieces where you manipulate spellings, untangle anagrams, and solve puzzles using common proverbs and idioms. Infocom's Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It went to town with these concepts, with different game sections devoted to different types of pun and spoonerism. In Simon Christiansen's PataNoir, you resolve all the puzzles…

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Feature: A golem-populated SF city

IF Only: Alcyone on Kickstarter

Fresh on Kickstarter is a science fiction IF piece called Alcyone: The Last City. A look at the screenshots will suggest something familiar to dedicated IF fans: it looks a lot like StoryNexus, the Failbetter engine that powers both Fallen London and (behind the scenes) Sunless Sea/Sunless Skies.

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Feature: Games from the Spring Thing festival

IF Only: Games from Spring Thing 2017

Spring Thing is a yearly festival for interactive fiction, with two sections: the Main Festival, where the games are in competition and anyone may vote for a favorite; and the Back Garden, for unranked games that the authors wanted to share but not receive a ranking. This somewhat unusual structure means that the Back Garden has become an attractor for games that might not be…

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Feature: A Frenchman in a bathtub

IF Only: Le Reprobateur is a refreshing, multimedia story

Le Réprobateur is an extremely unusual piece of French multimedia IF. It is a personal favorite of mine — so odd, so unlike anything else out there — but for the past few years it has been difficult to recommend to people, because it was not only commercial, but also unreliable about installation. (At least, so reported the friends who tried to play it.) But Le…

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Feature: Exploring a decade's work

IF Only: The Works of CEJ Pacian

"Hello," he adds, a moment later. "I think I've found the way in. A small metal door with a fiendish puzzle lock." >x lock There are a large number of small moving parts. "Yes, quite fiendish indeed," Peyton says. "And very intricate." He draws back a foot and then kicks the door hard. The puzzle lock comes apart with a twang. "Too intricate for its…

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Feature: Recommended time-travel IF games

IF Only: A Question of When

IF time travel games come in several flavors. There's the grand exploration flavor, where you're visiting different historical eras and checking out the set-pieces, but different eras don't really affect one another much. Occasionally they'll use paradoxes as a threat — you have to accomplish A and not B, or else you'll throw off the timeline! — but usually they don't do too many strange things with…

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Feature: costumes and disguises

IF Only: dressed for the party

Plundered Hearts (Amy Briggs/Infocom, 1987) was Infocom's one and only romance. It was also very much ahead of its time. Emulating the conventions of romance meant offering richer non-player characters, and spending more interaction time with them. There was a definite plot, not just a sequence of puzzles in an underpopulated landscape. There were set scenes where you could be clever and turn the tables…

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Feature: Two IF works on Kickstarter

IF Only: Thaumistry and Southern Monsters on Kickstarter

Kevin Snow's work is notable for drawing strongly from specific cultures and folklore traditions. Snow's two previous works, Domovoi and Beneath Floes, take on folk tales from Slavic and Inuit culture respectively. For Beneath Floes, he collaborated with the Nunavut-based game studio Pinnguaq (Singuistics, Qalupalik), which is why the game is also available in Inuktitut. Both Domovoi and Beneath Floes deploy illustration as well as…

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Feature: Choices at the end of time

IF Only: Apocalypse Eve

Apocalypse is a popular topic of IF. Brian Moriarty's Trinity explored the threat of nuclear annihilation, back in 1986; Phantom Williams' 500 Apocalypses got several mentions here last year, from me and from Philippa Warr. Max Kreminski's Epitaph takes a more Spore-like approach, as you're allowed to try to nurture procedurally generated civilizations to survive longer than a few turns, and instead (most likely) rack…

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Feature: An attempt to make commercial parser IF viable

IF Only: Remembering Textfyre

For quite a lot of the 2000s, IF enthusiasts hoped for a future in which parser IF would become commercially viable again. There were various theories about how to do that, but one company made a more serious attempt than most. Dave Cornelson put together Textfyre, a company that would create interactive fiction aimed at roughly middle school-aged children. The games would have a custom…

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Feature: Trends and recommendations

IF Only: Looking back at 2016 in Interactive Fiction

We have, at last, reached the end of 2016. I'm not going to do a top-ten list — both because a lot of the games I might put on this list are things I've already covered elsewhere in previous columns, and because I think some of the most interesting things to happen in 2016 were about trends rather than single hits. But here are a…

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Feature: Where to get your fix

IF Only: What to watch for

Most of my columns look at a particular author, game, style, or theme in IF that you might be interested in trying out. But if you're new to interactive fiction entirely and want to branch out into finding new work of your own, where would you look? Here's a quick tour of some interesting things to look at and watch for.

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Feature: Four illustrated IF games

IF Only: The Works of Steph Cherrywell

Steph Cherrywell is the creator of web comics (not necessarily safe for work) and graphic novels, such as Pepper Penwell and the Land Creature of Monster Lake. She is also one of the standout creators of comedy parser IF from the past couple of years, carrying over into interactive fiction her skill as an illustrator and her taste for riffing on naive adventure stories. In…

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Feature: Flashback to a bear's childhood

IF Only: Bears and Shoes

IF Comp 2016 is still running as I write this — though by the time you read it, we'll be down to the final days. Most years recently, I've been certain what game was going to win by this point in the process. This year, I truly don't know. Partly, that's because the crop is so very large. With nearly 60 entrants in the pool,…

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Feature: Four new pieces of IF to recommend

IF Only: All About The Setting

IF Comp 2016 continues to run, with a diverse range of fascinating games. And there's still time for you to play and judge five of them if you wish! This week, I'm taking a look at some Comp pieces that are particularly rich in setting. Letting the player explore a place deeply and really get to know it has always been one of the strengths…

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Feature: Assembling evidence

IF Only: Games of Mystery and Discovery from IF Comp 2016

IF Comp 2016 is still running, and I'm back to suggest a few more possible highlights if you're interested in trying out the games. I am not going to have a chance to cover nearly all of the 58 entrants in this column, though, so I strongly encourage you to check out the site, pick out some games that interest you, and possibly even vote.…

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Feature: Biggest festival of the IF year

IF Only: IF Comp 2016

My friends: IF Comp 2016 is now open. If you're new to interactive fiction, you may not be familiar with the IF community calendar, so let me quickly explain why you've arrived at the best time of year.

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Feature: An overview of Ryan Veeder's interactive fiction

IF Only: The Works Of Ryan Veeder

There are a handful of IF authors whose work is consistent and satisfying, who repeatedly and frequently release things their fans rush to play. Andrew Schultz turns out a wordplay puzzle game or two a year. Caelyn Sandel wrote a serialized Twine story called Bloom, with a steady supply of new installments. And then there's Ryan Veeder, a master of short parser games who produces…

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