Posts Tagged ‘Jon Ingold’

IF Only: Remembering Textfyre

Shadow in the Cathedral Cover

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 interface that resembled a book, and they’d be released as parts of a series, to encourage repeat sales. There would be handmade maps and artwork, so that these games would feel like quality products. And they’d sell for a serious price, $25 each. Read the rest of this entry »

How Little Choices Make Sorcery! Feel Epic

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Sorcery! [official site].

From Warlock of Firetop Mountain on I was pretty much obsessed with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Of course I was: they presented richly drawn fantasies in which I could play a part, my imagination spinning on their words and illustrations. (My favourite illustrator? Obviously Russ Nicholson.) Inkle’s Sorcery! series, four text-based games adapted from Fighting Fantasy co-creator Steve Jackson’s original gamebooks, capture all that made Fighting Fantasy special and add a magical extra: the dynamism of videogames.

In fact, Sorcery! often feels more dynamic and alive than videogames. As you progress through the books, your adventure keeps getting richer, the world more responsive to your passage. It’s partly down to the increasing freedom you have to explore, but more, it’s because each book is filled with choices that feel like they have consequence; that the game is watching and remembers your every move. Sorcery! is fluid and feels player-directed, and yet it’s strongly authored. It’s like Steve Jackson is writing it for you as you play, reacting to your every action.

There’s no AI here, though. Sorcery!’s magic is down to a system that’s far simpler, but yet results in at least as much intricacy. This fantasy epic is actually just a lot of:

THE MECHANIC: Little choices

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IF Only: What Will You, The Detective, Do Next?

Cropped box cover image for Deadline

The first piece of interactive fiction I ever played was Infocom’s locked-room murder mystery Deadline. With a plot that turned on embezzlement and unfaithfulness, not to mention a fiendishly unforgiving set of scheduling puzzles, this is not the game I myself would recommend for a six-year-old. But I suppose my parents figured it wouldn’t do me any harm, and it left me with a long-term affection for interactive mysteries.

The mystery is a natural fit for interactive fiction. The player has a clear goal. The focus of the story is usually firmly on past rather than present events. Locks, ciphers, and other standard puzzles feel at home in the genre. So many classic mysteries are essentially logic problems in fancy dress, so it’s not a great stretch to do the same thing in game form. (In fact, here’s Mattie Brice on why murder mystery writing can teach us about narrative game design in general.)

So if you have a taste for classic whodunnit genres rendered interactive, here are some highlights dating from 1995 to 2016.

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How 80 Days Adapted The Modernist Spirit Of Verne

80 Days [official site] has finished its journey around mobile platforms and finally arrived at its ultimate destination, the PC. If you read our review earlier this week, you might know I like it.

Back in March, long in advance of the PC version’s announcement or release, I met Inkle founders Jon Ingold and Joseph Humfrey alongside 80 Days writer Meg Jayanth. They told me about adapting the spirit of Jules Verne, their responsibility to be progressive, the importance of writing games with people and dialogue, how to make players trust that their choices matter, what Phileas Fogg has in common with James T. Kirk, and what Verne might have thought had he played the game.

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Book ‘Em: Make It Good Is IF About An Alcoholic Detective

Undo undo undo undo.

“Word is: if you don’t crack this one, you’re out of a job.”

I’ve previously established that Where’s An Egg? is the best game about being a detective, but Make It Good is probably the best text adventure about being an alcholic detective. It was released in 2009 but I only discovered it this past week. It’s free and you can play it right now in your browser.

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