IF/Text Games


Yeargh, but I hate when you gotta get up early, you’re still sodden with sleep because you hit the bed at 3am trying desperately to finish the book you were supposed to have finished for this morning’s class, and the coffee is cold and milk is sour.

Bad times.

Anyway, I have 15 minutes to get over the immediate post-coffee jitters, get dressed, dump the dishes into the sink for when I get back, and then rush off to catch the train. All while re-reading the other book I was supposed to have finished for this morning’s second class. … … … sometimes I wonder if you really can, like my friend Hwei San says – overdose on Literature.

I remember thinking in Shakespearean English for a whole day right after mugging (studying, for you non-Singaporeans) Hamlet and King Lear one loooooong all-nighter session.

Zounds.

Yes well, I did slack around last night, which explains why I’m in such poor condition today. Though *perks up* it was really rather educational! See, I was reading Interactive Fiction (*nudges Conscience away, who mutters something about playing Interactive Fiction.*) and applying my brain to solving fiendishly difficult logical puzzles all while enriching my vocabulary. No seriously, it was a proud moment for me when I realised I’d solved Half Sick of Shadows’ All Things Devours (recognise that from the riddle in The Hobbit? Yes, it’s a text game involving time travel. Which of course, instantly acquaints you with the idea of a game that’s all kinds of hell and all kinds of fun). This is the first game, after Plotkin’s So Far, that I’ve managed to get through, using only one small eentsyweentsy hint… and all that hint was, this time, was a reminder of the fourth dimension. heh. Great game. Recommended. (Plus, female PC. Everybody wants to play a female PC. They’re like, smart and everything.)

If I have that much trouble solving interactive fiction’s puzzles, I can’t imagine what writing them is like.

Oh, got to run. Got the post-coffee toilet urge.

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Interactive Fiction.

Spider and Web

So I’ve just gotten into it. Strange, in an age where most people are leaving wordy passages and verbose descriptions and >what now? prompts for 3D swordflinging and spectacular lifelike tank-and-airplane crashes. But being an irrepressible gamer and reader both from as early an age I can remember (I have a video from my childhood with mini-me yelling at Mario to jump over the stupid green pipe), text gaming is naturally my element. Besides, one of the first games I completed was a text game – an Alice in Wonderland adaptation that I lost when the 3.86 crashed, and never found again. I thought it was great, a fantastic idea. That was back in, oh I suppose, 1994, so I’m no child of the golden era of text gaming – I really did stumble back into those hedges. I eventually tripped up Quest while doing some of that stumbling, and after MUDding a little as well, I realised how unpolished Alice was, and how much more sophisticated text games could be. Sure, they’re just games, and lots of them are made by ordinary people not in the gaming industry, but even games made of words and prompts can shine. *gleaming letters*. Not ‘shine’ in that sense. I’m using the overused metaphor. But see, that’s exactly what I mean – like art, interactive fiction is open to interpretation and adaptation. If one decides that blinking letters makes a good point, then blinking letters it is, and it doesn’t have to be tacky. (Check out shrapnel, by Adam Cadre for a good example of innovative style.)

Perhaps most importantly: interactive fiction isn’t quite the same as text games – the latter can arguably be said to have its emphasis on the gaming aspect, and the former can arguably be said to focus on the literary aspect. Storytelling, like Cadre says in his (brilliant) game Photopia, where you tell the tale as much as I do. You absolutely have to get the idea out of your head that text games are just made nowadays because they’re considerably easier to code than graphic-driven ones – if there’s one idea we all should do away with, that’s definitely the one. What I have played of interactive fiction leaves me breathless, excited, astonished, addicted. It can be like literature. It can be literature. I’m practically hyperventilating with the absolute expanse of things you do with interactive fiction!

At any rate, you should stop listening – metaphorically speaking – to me fawn over interactive fiction, and try out some of these games… here’s the link to the Frotz interpreter archive. It’s what you need to play the Z-code games, which are all I’m playing at the moment. I’ll move on to TADS and the other kinds of files soon enough. I downloaded the WindowsFrotzInstaller, if that’s any help. Now go to Emily Short’s IF ‘Notables’ listing, where she categorises some of the more significant or prominent games according to Playable Character style and personality, Gameplay and structure, interactivity of NPCs, etc. Very good if you’re into playing unique, stereotype-bending games, which I am.

I’ve played quite a few games, but finished less – some are tough, and some are outright incompatible with my still nooby brain. I *did* manage to finish Andrew Plotkin’s (brilliant) espionage piece Spider and Web with only a small hint about grilles , and that means you should be able to do it too. Just hone your exploratory skills. Pay attention to everything that’s said or described, and examine, search, try everything. Trust me, the chair puzzle alone, when you solve it, is worth all your effort and time. I finished Babel by Michael J. Roberts and Sting of the Wasp by Jason Devlin too; the last took more time than the first, and has a wholly enjoyable streak of malice running through it. *grin* Schadenfreude! Babel, while possessing a rather cliched plot and premise, has sufficiently evocative descriptions that I was wearing a sweater and a jacket and the heater turned up high when I was playing it. Right now I’m handling two activities: playing as Adam Cadre’s delightful little Machiavel of Varicella, and currently swearing at the NPC in Jon Ingold’s Fail-Safe. That last primarily because I’m convinced what I’m stuck on is a guess-the-verb problem more than a real block on my part. Fail-Safe‘s got a very interesting idea working here though, so don’t let my being stuck stop you from checking it out. All games can be found at Baf’s guide to the IF archive… here.

…a newbie’s perspective.

So what have I been doing while waiting for Hana Kimi Episode 5 to finish loading? (I can’t torrent it, not with just 160MB free at the moment. And no, I can’t afford an external hard drive at the moment either.)

Gaming!

I’m a pretty bad gamer but a pretty addicted one. No, cut the ‘pretty’ out of that last part. I’m hooked, fish out of the water. Most of my time gets channeled into WoTMUD, the Wheel of Time MUD; a text-based game or MUD based on the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It’s heavily PK-based (PlayerKilling) but has serious RP (RolePlay) elements, and while RP is not enforced, it’s highly recommended, and you’re not likely to find OOC (out of character) statements, things or descriptions in a run at all. I used to mud here last year for about a month, and was even more crazy about it then, staying up to see (out of the corner of a distracted eye) the sun rise as I tap away learning spams and learning WoTMUD in general. I only stopped for a few months afterward because of a lagging connection problems, but as you can see, that all resolved nicely and I’m back on the mud with lower than ever ping. *grin*

What’s best about WoTMUD is really the atmosphere.

You’ll have as much as 200 players on at busy times, like weekends or exp multiplier days; and at the very least, about 50 players. About half will be experienced players PKing or RPing as they wish, and narrating the PK for the other half of the MUD, expers and statters, to listen to while killing those cute deer and ancient trees. It’s a very interactive and mostly very friendly and helpful community – you won’t have flames much, and if they happen, they get snuffed out by other players. Help is given within the tic, and there’s usually some interesting topic being discussed on the OOC chats, sometimes random friendly humour; and the forums are a great place to read other logs, smartass other (more…)