Posts Tagged ‘david fisher’

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: 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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