A golem-populated SF city
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Games from the Spring Thing festival
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 well suited to a traditional competition: experiments, academic projects, multimedia-heavy efforts, and samplers of unfinished work. The games are freshly available this year, and here’s a sampling: Read the rest of this entry »
A Frenchman in a bathtub
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 Réprobateur‘s author François Coulon has just re-released it, for free, in a browser-accessible format, and now anyone can get at it. The browser version is a tiny bit less elegant here and there than the original presentation, but what you get in exchange is something that actually functions on a modern computer. Read the rest of this entry »
Exploring a decade's work
“Hello,” he adds, a moment later. “I think I’ve found the way in. A small metal door with a fiendish puzzle 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 intended purpose, really. Let’s head down when you’re ready.” — Love, Hate, and the Mysterious Ocean Tower
CEJ Pacian is a versatile and prolific IF author, writing with many different tools, mechanics, story lengths and genres. Playing through Pacian’s catalog, I get the sense of an author impatient with intricate puzzle locks that get in the way of story; an author constantly looking for new ways to design around the conventional limits and boundaries of text adventures. Read the rest of this entry »
Recommended time-travel IF games
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 causality.
The commercial IF era produced several good pieces like this; Trinity and TimeQuest are probably the best regarded of that set. There’s L. Ross Raszewski’s Moments Out of Time, which is about exploring a particular fictional environment with foreknowledge of how it’s all going to end. And while the puzzle design is now considered a little unfair in spots, Neil deMause’s Lost New York is fascinated with its city as a historical site.
Then there are the games where the time-travel aspect deeply affects gameplay. Time travel mechanics can be particularly rich at conveying consequence and outcome, because you can hop back and forth, tinkering with your decisions and seeing all the different ways things might have worked out. And text as a medium can often afford to depict a wide range of wildly varied settings and outcomes, since no one’s modeling or animation budget is being strained to portray these possibilities. Here are some of the best. Read the rest of this entry »
costumes and disguises
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 on your enemies. There were multiple possible endings, depending on whether you wanted to give your heart to the sexy pirate after all.
Not only that, but it was easy enough to complete, even before we all knew how to find walkthroughs on the internet. When I got to Plundered Hearts as a teenager, I’d been playing Infocom and Scott Adams games since the age of six, without ever seeing the end of a single one. This was the first text adventure I ever actually finished.
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Two IF works 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 text; both show a taste for the uncanny as opposed to the simply horrific. Beneath Floes overlaps the supernatural threat and the threat that comes from our own failings and guilt; and while I enjoyed Domovoi, I thought Beneath Floes was more mature, more complex, and better written.
Now Southern Monsters promises to be Kevin’s biggest and most personal work yet, and it’s on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight.
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