Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Plotkin’

IF Only: Games of linguistic experimentation

cover of Nord and Bert

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 by interacting with items that appear in the game’s copious metaphorical vocabulary. Ad Verbum (Nick Montfort) uses spelling as a source of constraints, as in the room where you can only use words beginning with a particular letter. Roger Firth’s Letters from Home is an interactive crossword where the player wanders an old house looking for items that sound like letters of the alphabet (tea -> T, of course) in order to deploy them in a letter puzzle. The prolific Andrew Schultz has made wordplay and encryption games the main subject of his work.

But there’s another category of games-about-words that don’t quite qualify as wordplay in the same sense, but that make heavy use of IF’s textual nature all the same. These are games where you’re actually working out a language, or at least an encryption, as you play; learning and then deploying a new vocabulary and possibly a new syntax as well. Read the rest of this entry »

IF Only: IF Comp 2016

Banner image for IF Comp

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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IF Only: Stories With Texture

Screenshot of the Texture Public Library page

Newcomers to interactive fiction tend to distinguish just a couple of IF formats — Twine and parser, often, depending on whether you’re clicking or typing. Those with a little more experience might also recognize ChoiceScript and inklewriter, as options for creating games with a classic choose-your-own-adventure-style interface and some of the qualities of a gamebook. But in fact there are many other possible interfaces for IF — and the IF community has just seen the release of a new one.

Texture, designed by Jim Munroe and Juhana Leinonen, is an interactive fiction platform intended to be effective across mobile devices as well as the PC screen — unlike parser designs that require fiddly typing. Despite its simplicity, though, Texture gives the reader a little bit more control than the average hypertext piece: to interact, you drag a verb from the bottom of the screen and release it over a hotspot in the text.

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IF Only: Hadean Lands Will Teach You Alchemy

Cropped cover image for Hadean Lands

Back when Kickstarter was relatively young, Andrew Plotkin proved that there was some money in interactive fiction by raising more than $30,000 to develop Hadean Lands. The game concerned the crash of a starship driven by alchemy, one in which the player would have to complete various rituals in order to get the ship moving again.

In full disclosure, I backed the game in its crowdfunding stage, and later helped to beta-test it. But I’m not alone in thinking Hadean Lands is one of the most extraordinary pieces of parser IF ever written, both as a technical achievement and as a piece of escalating puzzle design. Indeed, almost the first response when I started this column was a plea that I would cover Hadean Lands as soon as possible.

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Absent Heroes: Choose Your Own Interview II

I had a sweet time making the last Choose Your Own Interview, so this time I collaborated with long time Interactive Fiction heroes Adam Cadre, Emily Short and Andrew Plotkin to make you something special. The following is a heady mix of RPS fanfic, Interactive Fiction love letter, and slight autobiographical tendencies. Your secret content this time comes courtesy of a guest appearance by someone we all know and love. Enjoy, and keep me updated on your own adventures in text. Now let’s get really drunk. There must be a bar around here somewhere?

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