However, no one seems to bring up that if they're not stuck on the language,
TADS (2 or 3) or Hugo offer massively better support for graphics, not only
from an ease-of-use standpoint for the author but also in terms of allowing
more choices to be included.
Just my two cents for what it's worth.
It should also be noted that the leap to Hugo from Inform 6 is
reasonably painless since the Hugo syntax mimics Informs in many ways.
I would say at _this time_, Hugo and TADS are definitely better for IF
games that require seemless integration of pictures or graphics (and
sound). And of course TADS has that snazzy HTML stuff.
Which platform will be the first to implement XAML?
But all of these people have been trying to do it in inform 7. Tads
and Hugo are nothing like inform 7. If you're so bumfuzzled trying to
add graphics in inform7 that you're willing to give up the natual
language features, why not switch to *inform 6*, which has comparable
capabilities, even superior ones in several ways?
I'm not sure I6 is any better at incorporating pictures than I7. I've never
found that to be the case, even with Glulx. I agree that TADS and Hugo are
nothing like I6 or I7. That was sorta the point, for those wanting to do
pictures and sounds so much.
I think I6 and I7 are both very powerful. But they're not so great at the
multimedia stuff that a lot of people seem to want to do. I was just
bringing that up because people might not be considering those options.
Alternately Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which is the
next-gen presentation API for Windows Vista (also back-ported to XP).
XAML is the markup language used in conjunction with WPF and allows for
high-end declarative UI design.
So like if HTML, XML, Flash, and .NET (C#) had a baby.
Maybe it's just me, but I find I6 and T2 to be quite similar. I'd
rather say I6 is nothing like I7.
Must have been quite a party.
Well, you've been misinformed. It's easy to add pictures in both i7
and i6, and it's easy to use them in a flexible way in i6 (Use is
currently much more restricted in i7).
It's the natural language of Inform what is bringing fresh newbies like
me. There's *nothing* out there similar to Inform 7. I used PAW when
the Spectrum was King of Kings but when I tried Inform 6 was completely
beyond my patience to learn it. Inform 7 is just allowing me to produce
complex adventures like I always dreamed with an incredible curve of
learning. Pity the several bugs that is preventing me to implement
proper graphics, though Mr. Nelson himself said in an incoming version
will all be fixed.
> XAML is the markup language used in conjunction with WPF and allows for
> high-end declarative UI design.
Are XAML and WPF cross-platform? Is the XAML schema a published, open
standard? Is the XAML specification copywrighted? Has the XAML standard
passed the ISO process?
> So like if HTML, XML, Flash, and .NET (C#) had a baby.
/Arthur Dent off
> Arnel Legaspi wrote:
> > ChicagoDave wrote:
> > > Which platform will be the first to implement XAML?
> > XAML?
> Alternately Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which is the
> next-gen presentation API for Windows Vista (also back-ported to XP).
Oh, yeah, a _perfect_ idea if you want to run your game on MacOS. Or
Linux. Or, for that matter, Win98 (yes, some people do still use that,
and IF is perfectly suited to it), or a vanilla version of XP.
If you're going to write code of any sort, make it cross-platform.
There's just no good reason *not* to, anymore.
When they port those APIs to OS 9, someone let me know. :)
www.intaligo.com Building, INFORM, Seasons (upcoming!)
That's not how it would work.
The whole point of WPF is to abstract the presentation layer of
applications. So an interpreter that implemented this would be customisable
- the author would be able to control how the user interface was presented
to the player.
The interpreters on OS's where WPF is not available would not be
customisable, so the author would have no control over the user interface,
but - as long as the UI doesn't provide access to anything the standard
interface does not (and with IF, the standard interface is essentially the
parser) - the game would still be entirely playable.
Isn't that the case with every GUI API ever written? :P
Right. I'll offer you my story. I would guess others' are similar.
I considered Aieee!, Hugo, IFXML, Inform, TADS and several others for IF
development. My criteria was along the lines that the system had to
perform well with multimedia across platforms (Linux, Mac OS X, and
Windows), was well documented, and have a solid development platform.
The truth is that I had nearly selected TADS3 over Inform as it seemed
to provide better flexibility for presenting the interactor with content
most suited to my project goals. I note here that Inform is an excellent
platform and this is not a 'knock' against Inform in any way. Inform 7,
in my opinion, holds great promise beyond what is already achieved.
I learned, however, that TADS3 did not seem to offer some of the most
advanced features to users of Linux, my primary development platform.
Cross-platform compatibility is important to me as I wanted a system
that would run regardless of the interactor's platform; I wanted a
system that would "just run." I wanted a system that would support
advanced multimedia using a "live CD" format.
Further research revealed that much of the TADS3 functionality could be
achieved through Inform 6 with Glulx runtime system and the Onyx Ring
library. I use Inform 6 for development today.
To show you the kind of capabilities I require, I offer links to two
demo projects I am working on. Both of these projects are 'two room
wonders' and are not intended to show off my magnificent prose. If
you'll forgive me, the text, at least for these experiments, were last
on the list.
The first project, set in the quaint town of Oysterville, WA near (on?)
the Washington coast, explores the multimedia capabilities of Inform 6
with Glulx. "Oystervile" gives the interactor the ability to "look ne"
and see, naturally, to the Northeast--the imagery is panoramic.
Oysterville is smart in the way it looks: if you approach a destination
from the Southwest you will face Northeast when you arrive.
I use a modified version of Gargoyle for each of these projects.
I've optimized "Oysterville" for a resolution of 1024x768. I'm happy to
hear feedback for how the blorb works on your system.
You may find the blorb file here, note that it is a large, 14MB download:
My second project represents a maturing of my thoughts regarding IF.
It's an excersize in providing the interactor with more of a literary
feel--more like something you might experience over hot cocoa.
You may download the blorb here:
For building the work, I wanted to see if I could take my camera,
notebook, and GPS to record each scene "on the fly." From there my goal
was to accurately record each area as I visited it. I transferred the
text directly from my notebook to the IF. You'll find this manifest in
the sketchy (at best) writing. Here is an image of each point I
photographed and recorded. Each point was automatically deduced via
timestamp and compared against my GPS's tracklog. A script automatically
pulls down the image with each photography point marked:
The project is set in the Peavy Arboredom Research Forest. I'm now
working on ways to best meld the style of Oysterville with Peavy so that
the interactor may receive both the benefit of a pleasurable experience
in literature and the visual appeal of 'seeing' all that the protagonist
Note that this game doesn't have room headings--only the GPS coordinates
in the status line. My thinking here, as I mentioned above, was to
create a work that read more like a book without a linear plot. When I'm
finished writing the story, it will have a minimum of "to the Northeast
lies..." statements. These kinds of directional things will be handled
with subtle hyperlinks that the interactor can click on.
This brings me to another point. There was a thread awhile back about
Open Source Interactive Fiction writing. Some thought it a great (if not
new) idea, others cited the possibility for "development by committee."
I'd personally would like to try OSIF writing. I've come a long way
writing the templates for the game's basic structure, that's true. But
with a project like mine there's so much more work to do! I have to
develop a good plot, plot tree, write good prose, and test, test, test.
If someone sent me an email with a proposal for a good story and said,
"we'd like you to photograph an old-growth forest, a cave, and a small
mountain town. Write down everything you see and hear and give us the
raw data," I'd about do it.
Finally, no self-respecting, extra-long post would be complete without a
wish list, so here it is:
1) Development environment and multimedia capabilities for TADS3 in
Linux -- handy not only for Linux developers but also for creating
full-featured live CD's as well
2) Working links in Gargoyle for Linux (Mac? Win?)
3) Different kinds of links in Glk -- perhaps italicized green for
things you can look at and italicized light grey links for places you
can go. The days of hard underlined links are behind us, I think
4. Pop-up windows for Glulx
Not really. With most GUI APIs, the core logic of the program has a
tendency to get rather tangled with the UI logic. You directly call the API
from the program. WPF, though I haven't really looked at it properly,
should make it much easier to change UI on the fly. The UI is specified
externally to the program (in XAML).
It's not the only thing that does this (Gecko + XUL, for example), and
obviously some programmers are better than others at keeping UI components
well separated from program logic, but it's fairly different from, say,
I agree. You'll find the maturing process toward a more literary feel
between my first and second projects. Emphasizing graphics and factual
accounting of scenes isn't fiction, it's dry travel writing.
> What you seem to be proposing is that we all take our GPS units and
> cameras and go out into the bush to slavishly record what we see there,
I actually laughed out loud over this--that's a good one!
> as opposed to sitting down at home and carrying out the work of a
I'm suggesting that perhaps form follows function. I'm suggesting that
having one willing to record an area and bring back good data is a great
asset to a writer.
I suggest performing a survey of an area stands to serve as a good
platform for writing a good work of interactive fiction, like the way
'Adventure' is based on the Mammoth Cave network in the Kentucky karst.
In the medium of IF, photographs have their place, but they are
> no substitute for well-written description, narrative, and dialogue.
Agreed. There's plenty of precedent for the idea that imagery over prose
generally isn't fulfilling.
> I'll be the first to agree that research is fun, but it can, and often
> is, taken to extremes.
Again, I agree. Gemerally I think we're saying the same thing. I think
our styles differ by order of subtlety.
> Yours is a case in point.
I hope my overall response above made the preceding sentence unnecessary.
Or, as many others do, treat IF as a game genre. Maybe you're confusing
text adventures with something else here. An IF author is mostly a game
Well... my two cents.. and the reason why I'm here (and asking image
support for inform7... since I am a graphic artist before being a
programmer or even a writer, and english is not even my mother tongue
so... I have no choice ;) )
If it is the case why wouldn't we be able to enter I6 code in I7.. that
would be the solution, at least temporarily, and for power users...
You juste enter <I6> Load picture and make fancy stuff that I7 can't do
and you have your thing working.
Maybe it is already possible... and if it is I'd like to know since it
could solve (at least for the moment) all the "little" frustrations
with I7 and make it a killer app since it could combine the power of
natural language and traditional code when needed (without being
One of the trends I really hated the last couple of years, is the
increasing number of works that offer polished, excellent and shiny
blocks of prose with a few prompts thrown in-between, but lack a proper
game universe and depth; the reason I didn't really like *most* works by
the authors you mention.
The game I enjoyed most lately is "The Legend Lives" (it's old, but I
didn't get to actually finish it back then). This game is, IMO, the
perfect example of what a "text adventure" is all about.
Sometimes I also feel like the "IF community" is turning its back on itself.
I wish there was a rec.games.text-adventure.
Something I find quite amusing though, is that whenever someone showed
up on the newsgroups a couple years back saying "hey, I wanna write an
IF authoring tool that offers natural language programming," there was
big laughter, criticism, and the conclusion of the thread was something
like "get out of here loser". Note that those who were laughing back
then are today's #1 I7 fans.
> There's *nothing* out there similar to Inform 7.
Now you know why.
But they are *not* irreconcilable and they cross-fertilize. The
shortcomings of 'pure' IF which you enumerate may be put down to the
experimental nature of the works we've seen so far. There is a long way
to go, and it remains to be seen whether the two sub-genres, both
children of Adventure, ultimately diverge or converge. Personally, my
hopes are pinned on the latter.
A work of IF should contain enough logic-puzzle interactivity to engage
the 'reader' and to advance the plot in surprising and unexpected
directions. The player should remain at the helm. At least, the author
should be skillful enough to maintain the illusion that the player is
making real plot decisions by his choice of actions.
Examples of the opposite - a work of 'pure' IF which failed to engage
this need in the player - wouldn't be hard to cite. "All Roads", I
felt, failed to engage the play-instinct.
Let's see if we can't dig up examples of failures on both sides, and
analyse what made a given work a satisfying fictional experience from
both the TA and IF perspective.
I suspect that the most satisfying works are precisely those that are
managing to fuse the two styles, while not sacrificing quality (or
quantity) of prose. I would place "Anchorhead" and "City of Secrets" in
this successful category.
> One of the trends I really hated the last couple of years, is the
> increasing number of works that offer polished, excellent and shiny
> blocks of prose with a few prompts thrown in-between, but lack a proper
> game universe and depth; the reason I didn't really like *most* works by
> the authors you mention.
What is a "proper game universe"? Presumably it's something that
"The Legend Lives" has and some of the unnamed works above lack,
but can you describe what it is? And why these anonymous games
> Sometimes I also feel like the "IF community" is turning its back on itself.
I've no idea what this means.
I'm not convinced that the two separate groups of "text adventure"
and "interactive fiction" exist. I am, however, increasingly of the
opinion that there are two separate groups of IF players: those
who engage with games primarily on a semantic level, and those who
engage primarily on a syntactic level. The latter group sees IF as
the manipulation of symbols; they become less interested when
they are expected to look beyond a symbol, at what the symbol
represents. For them, a dungeon is like a game board, and keys, doors
and monsters like game tokens, which can be manipulated according to
some rules. Knowing their meaning is like knowing the "meaning" of
chess pieces: amusing but not necessary for progress in or enjoyment
of the game. Setting and plot are there to rescue the game from pure
abstraction -- in part, to make the symbols more recognisable -- but
they're not the main point.
"Semantic" players, on the other hand, see IF as depicting a meaningful
world. They become less interested when they are expected to perform
actions that do not make sense in the context of the game world, or do
not contribute to their understanding of the game world.
I'm exaggerating the "syntactic" point of view, but not too much. See
this post for a rather lucid description of what a syntactic player
expects from a game:
> A work of IF should contain enough logic-puzzle interactivity to engage
> the 'reader' and to advance the plot in surprising and unexpected
What if "logic-puzzle interactivity" doesn't engage the reader? There
are other ways of advancing the plot in surprising and unexpected
> The player should remain at the helm. At least, the author
> should be skillful enough to maintain the illusion that the player is
> making real plot decisions by his choice of actions.
That's just one kind of interactivity. This post does a good
job of listing some others:
BTW, by "logic-puzzle interactivity" I was also tacitly assuming other
forms of interactivity, such as conversation and all forms of
decision-making and character-identification/conflict on the part of
the player: even as basic as what to type next. All of which can be
given significance by a skillful author.
I still think that for a game to be totally satisfying, it must
convince the player he is at least influencing the story.
One of the threads you mentioned I followed with interest, the other I
missed. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.
You can, and that *is* the solution.
The only real trouble is that the i6 code that makes this sort of
thing easy is a great beastie of a library that requires quite a bit
of effort to slot into i7 comfortably.
Especially by someone like me who just can't quite get his brain into
the i7 mindset.
I have some sympathy with this view, but I wouldn't agree exactly.
For me, a "proper game universe" in a coherent, comprehensible place,
consistent within its own laws, which the player comes to understand
through interaction. Ideally, I think each interaction with the
game universe (or game world, as I'd usually call it) should reveal
something about it.
> FWIW, here are few others which I'd consider very successful
> player-driven IF: "Aisle", "Muse", "Galatea", and "Vespers". "Aisle"
> won't progress at all unless the reader takes some action, yet the
> prose and back-stories - the game-universe, in effect - are beautifully
> conceived and executed. Similarly Galatea. Those two are pure IF, the
> others mentioned more of a successful fusion of text adventure with
Aisle meets your criteria for a "real game universe", but not mine. It
doesn't have a consistent game world which reveals itself through
interaction. Instead, each interaction *creates* a world (really a bit
of static story/backstory) with which you can't interact anymore.
Repeated interactions often just create new, different, mutually
incompatible worlds; there's often no obvious relation between
your actions and the world they create. I'm not even sure I'd classify
Aisle as IF; it's more like a generator of random story fragments. IF
is more than a program that returns cool responses to various
I don't consider them different genres. I see works that have more (or
less) play-with-the-world engagement, and I see works that have more
(or less) story content (which is not the same as "literary quality",
or even "literary qualities"). But these are not obviously opposite
ends of one axis.
Also, the notion that the term "game" implies shallow or casual fun
can be quashed with any look at high-level chess competition. Or
Scrabble. (I read _Word Freak_ a few months ago -- enlightening tour
of serious Scrabble play.) I'll give up calling my IF works (or
Emily's, Adam's, Michael Gentry's) "games" when Dr. Knizia gives up
"board games" for "structured multipolar goal exploration", or some
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
If the Bush administration hasn't subjected you to searches without a warrant,
it's for one reason: they don't feel like it. Not because you're innocent.
>> I think we have reached a point where we must consider text adventures
>> and interactive fiction two different genres. Not so different as to be
>> irreconcilable, but different nevertheless.
> I don't consider them different genres. I see works that have more (or
> less) play-with-the-world engagement, and I see works that have more
> (or less) story content (which is not the same as "literary quality",
> or even "literary qualities"). But these are not obviously opposite
> ends of one axis.
> Also, the notion that the term "game" implies shallow or casual fun
> can be quashed with any look at high-level chess competition. Or
> Scrabble. (I read _Word Freak_ a few months ago -- enlightening tour
> of serious Scrabble play.) I'll give up calling my IF works (or
> Emily's, Adam's, Michael Gentry's) "games" when Dr. Knizia gives up
> "board games" for "structured multipolar goal exploration", or some
I just see it this simple way: "Interactive Fiction" and "Text Adventures"
just can't be considered "different genres" 'cause IF is actually a "medium"
and "Text Adventure" is just one of its infinite posible "genres", same as
"Adventure Movies" is a possible "genre" in the vast sea of genres you can
find in the "Cinema" medium or "Adventure Novels" is a genre of Literature.
A film is not neccesarily an adventure movie, as the former is a wider
concept, but adventure movies are unquestionably films, indeed, they might
be very good ones. No one would say neither "adventure movies" and "cinema"
are different genres nor they're opposite things (we could go to finally
state that adventure movies are not movies but, eer... whatever :-) )
"At least"? I know of many games in which the player was *advancing*
the plot through his actions, but very few where it felt as though he
was making real plot decisions. Of those, it usually feels that way
because the plot decisions are not illusory: I-0, Textfire Golf,
Shadows on the Mirror, Slouching Towards Bedlam, The Baron, etc. I'd
say the illusion of choice is the hardest of all to engineer. Of course
a replay will usually give the game away, but even if we're only
considering the player's experience of a single play-through, it's not
easy: there have to seem to be points where the player has the chance
to do different things. One can cheat a little and offer an option
where both choices lead to the same outcome,* but players will often
see through this when their decision has no apparent bearing on the
rest of the game.
(* That's not to say there's no point in doing this. I'm thinking, for
instance, of the dialogue options in Planescape: Torment -- not IF, but
interactive narrative anyway. There are quite a few points where my
character was offered several variations of the same comment to make,
and as far as I could tell the results were the same no matter which I
picked. It's conceivable that my selection made some subtle statistical
difference, but in the short term it didn't feel like a plot decision.
It *did* feel like an opportunity for me to role-play a bit and decide
how I was going to characterize my hero, though.)
I'd basically agree with this. (I can understand the complaint voiced
by some people that "interactive fiction" is a stupid way to name the
medium, since it describes none of the medium's salient features --
text input and text output, parsing, world model. Still, through usage
I've come to understand "interactive fiction", at least as generally
used on r*if, as a reference to this medium.)
Which leads me to something else I've been thinking about recently. The
number of IF genres may theoretically be infinite, but in practice
there are only so many things being created, and new genres arise when
some subset of the community recognizes some new type of IF that it
wants to produce, consume, or both. So I'm curious: what would you say
the other IF genres are, at the moment? I don't mean answers like
"mystery" and "science fiction", cribbed from book marketing, but other
categories that are genres in the same sense that "text adventure" is a
There are a number of games where the player is presented with a real
choice, but where one option is clearly the "right" option and the
others lead to a very quick resolution. The beginning of "Blue Chairs"
comes to mind; if you make "the other choice" the game comes to a very
quick end, tantamount to deciding not to play the game. I'm not sure
whether I would count this as the illusion of of choice or not.
Hm. I think that kind of thing serves to emphasize the player's
complicity in the action: not only are you driving the plot forward (as
in most IF), but you had a chance to decide, within the parameters of
the game, that you reject this particular plot. So I don't think it's a
meaningless element to have in a game, but I also wouldn't call it
control over the plot.
My thumbnail view of genre theory (which I know nothing about
formally, of course):
A genre is a set of important conventions about how to read a book
(play a game, etc). "Important" in the sense that the author and
reader have to share them or the work will misfire. Genres develop
through feedback -- readers develop a taste for particular things;
authors give them what they want; readers and authors both develop
more sophisticated views of what the genre is, elaborate on successful
ideas, do things that comment on previous genre works, etc.
So, *book* genres are mystery, horror, science fiction, romance,
mainstream, etc -- these aren't just marketing categories, but ways to
read a book. To quote from a Worldcon panel discussion that I just saw
quoted: "...if an author has a detailed description of a room,
mainstream readers will assume the details carry symbolic/thematic
significance; mystery readers will look for A Clue; and SF readers
will look for worldbuilding. This is one thing that makes cross-genre
work so difficult." (Apropos to IF, eh?)
But *videogame* genres are shooter, car-racing, platformer, adventure,
survival horror, CRPG, etc. There are science fiction CRPGs and
fantasy CRPGs, but nobody talks about the science fiction genre of
videogames. (If you did, would you include _Wipeout_, a car-racing
game set in the future with antigrav cars?) I submit that this is not
a misuse of the term "genre", but an assessment of what's important
about videogame interaction.
(And while the "survival horror" game genre overlaps the "horror" book
genre, they're not identical. The game genre has to do with slow
exploration of a dangerous and overwhelming game world, where you are
fragile -- limited in abilities and resources. There is periodic
physical challenge and probably some puzzle element, both subsumed
within the framework of the exploration. Now, the danger is
conventionally zombies. But there's the strictly realistic game
_Disaster Report_, in which the danger is the destructive aftermath of
an earthquake, and your limited resource is potable water. This game
is frequently described as "survival horror without zombies", because
you *play* it the same way as _Fatal Frame_ or _Silent Hill_.)
So anyway. "Adventure" is a game genre, as I've described the notion.
As I frequently mutter in these climes, text adventures and graphical
adventures are very closely related. Text games have more variety,
though, because there are so many more of them -- thanks to the past
decade-plus of amateur work. (If you could create a medium-sized
graphical game in a month... or am I now describing Flash adventures?
"Escape the room" is certainly a genre, or sub-genre.)
I could give my own list of text IF genres, but "text adventure"
wouldn't be one of them, so I'm not the right person to answer this
specific question. Hm. _Anchorhead_ was cited as an example of the
category you're asking about, right? That's tricky, because it's a big
game, and an *early* big game at that -- which means its genre
landscape is defined by Infocom and the other 80s houses, not what we
think these days. When I think what _Anchorhead_ *plays* like, my
answer is... _Christminster_ and _Jigsaw_. Other big early games.
It's a big quest, with a lot of story, a lot of puzzle scenes,
sequences of events, characters, all woven together. A lot of what we
now think of as "IF genre" comes from taking those elements and
refining them *separately*, in small-game (IFComp) experimentation! So
there may not be a good answer.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
When Bush says "Stay the course," what he means is "I don't know what to
do next." He's been saying this for years now.
bill gates cries!
I wrote some "rules" (which can be broken) about choices in
I find this all reasonably persuasive.
> I could give my own list of text IF genres, but "text adventure"
> wouldn't be one of them, so I'm not the right person to answer this
> specific question.
Hm, okay. Well, so what genres would you identify, then? Maybe not
"text adventure", but "puzzlefest"? But that's not specific enough,
because it might seem to include everything from "Rematch" to
"Paint!!!!" to "The Mulldoon Legacy". Or maybe there are just subgenres
of puzzlefest: the short game that is really about solving a single
puzzle ("Rematch", "Lock & Key"); the short, replayable game of
optimization, where there are gradations of solution ("Textfire Golf",
"Paint!!!!"); the quite large game that consists of a string of puzzles
with limited narrative content ("Curses", "The Mulldoon Legacy",
perhaps "Finding Martin").
AIF must definitely be a genre.
Is Speed-IF a genre? Can one have a genre whose chief features are
whimsy, brevity, and, er, shoddiness? I suppose this does describe an
interaction style, inasmuch as the player is essentially agreeing not
to mind if the work is an incoherent untested mess because the results
might also be charming.
This starts to suggest that competitions and judged anthologies are
instrumental in forming genres, at least in this community. So is "art
show piece" a genre too? I think not quite, though, because art show
pieces in fact vary a fair bit. But one might identify a couple of
genres that have developed as a result of the art show premise, that IF
need not be puzzle-driven at all: conversational IF, maybe, and also
pure-exploration or pure-experience IF ("Ribbons", "Exhibition", "The
What about games of performance or role-playing? By which I don't mean
IF that mimics RPG stat-usage, but IF that turns heavily on exploring
the player character and making him act in characteristic ways ("Act of
Misdirection", "Tale of the Kissing Bandit")? I'm not sure there are
very many of these, but I enjoy them. I suppose "Rameses" might fit
None of these provides me with a place to put "Photopia" or "Slouching
Towards Bedlam" or "Shade", though. I'm also a bit unsure what to do
with things like "The Baron" and (on a very different wavelength)
"Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies", which do not *yet* belong to any
established genre, but which are quite explicit up front about the fact
that they are trying an unusual interaction style.
Hm. I'm also tempted to suggest genres like "Weary Dilbertesque Office
Farce [caffeine jokes optional]" and "The Author's House, with
Inexplicable Dragons". But I'm not sure those fit your description of
genre-nature. Which may be just as well.
> Hm. _Anchorhead_ was cited as an example of the
> category you're asking about, right? That's tricky, because it's a big
> game, and an *early* big game at that -- which means its genre
> landscape is defined by Infocom and the other 80s houses, not what we
> think these days. When I think what _Anchorhead_ *plays* like, my
> answer is... _Christminster_ and _Jigsaw_. Other big early games.
I mentally categorize those as "middle-school games": they tend to have
more coherent narratives than games like Curses or Zork or the
Enchanter series, but they still use puzzles very much as pacing/gating
devices to allow the player access to new parts of the story; the
puzzles themselves are sometimes arbitrary and fit badly with the
narrative. (Anchorhead is less guilty of this than, say, Jigsaw, I'd
say, but they all have bits where the need for a complex puzzle
overrides other considerations of pacing, plausibility, and the
constraints of the setting.) I think I'd consider a few of Infocom's
late works to be essentially middle-school games as well, especially
Plundered Hearts, which has really a pretty elaborate plot.
I'm not sure "middle-school" qualifies as a genre of its own, though.
I think it may be somewhat closer to the truth if you say that the
people would come in saying "hey, I wanna write IF in natural language
programming; why don't you (a) write a language (b) help me write my own
poorly-concieved language or (c) switch to my own
I7 has not recieved this same kind of big laughter and criticism, except
perhaps from Mr Breslin, because Mr Nelson went off and wrote the dang
thing first before announcing it, and he had a bit of experience in
writing an IF language that people will want to use.
How are these rules intended? E.g., is Blue Chairs flawed because it
provides a "bad" choice at the beginning? If so, are any games
Also, according to your rules, is everybody supposed to be trying to
write the type of game described by Emily above ("I-0, Textfire Golf,
Shadows on the Mirror, Slouching Towards Bedlam, The Baron, etc.")?
That seems a bit limiting to me.
> I think it may be somewhat closer to the truth if you say that the people
> would come in saying "hey, I wanna write IF in natural language
> programming; why don't you (a) write a language (b) help me write my own
> poorly-concieved language or (c) switch to my own
> poorly-concieved-and-implemented language?"
And then there are those like me, who saw these guys and thought "Ha!
You'd never be able to pull that off!" and then later "Holy crap, Graham
actually went and did it!" It's one thing to say that something tricky and
unconventional ought to be done, but it's another thing entirely to do it.
- Mantar --- Drop YourPantiesSirWilliam to email me.
I haven't played Blue Chairs, so I can't comment.
The point of the writeup is to get designers to think about what kind of
choices they're offering a player, window dressing aside. From there,
designers can ask themselves, if a choice really isn't a choice, then should
the game/IF-title include it?
Fiction writers, especially for TV/movie, review their own scenes and ask
what it accomplishes. Does it advance the plot? Does it say something about
the characters in it? Do any of the characters undergo part of their
character arc? Etc. Such fundamental questions allow them to trim out (or
improve) scenes. Is this a good thing? Reviewing games to see if choices are
relevent/valid/meaningful/interesting is the same sort of activity.
Er, yeah, but equally the author needs to have
*written* those things into it to begin with. So
defining a genre as a way to *read* a book seems
to be getting things back to front.
I'd just say a genre is a collection of works that
share some set of characteristics. I agree about
the creation of genre being a feedback process,
though -- kind of a gravitational aggregation.
> But *videogame* genres are shooter, car-racing, platformer, adventure,
> survival horror, CRPG, etc.
Yes, different media have developed different sets
of basis vectors for classifying the space of
possible works. In video games, the main axis of
classification tends to be related to the mechanics
of game play, probably because this is the single
biggest and clearest difference that stands out
between one game and another.
But within those categories, one can also often
see clear divisions into science fiction, fantasy,
etc. The classifications are multi-dimensional.
BTW, I don't think I'd include "survival horror"
in the above list, because it's not a user interface
style like the others. One could imagine it being
implemented using a variety of different mechanisms --
text IF, graphical IF, first person, etc.
Also, FWIW, text IF in its entirety could be taken
as a single genre within that classification.
Anyway, my take on IF genres:
* Old School, e.g. Zork -- Random collection of
setting and puzzle items, where nothing has
to make any sense.
* Literary -- Coherent setting, serious writing,
a plot, puzzles integrated with the setting
* Wacko Experimental -- Tries something out of
the ordinary, e.g. Spider and Web, Galatea,
Space Under the Window.
 By "serious writing" I don't mean devoid of
humour, but attempting a degree of quality something
like what you would expect from a professional work
of static fiction.
> Is Speed-IF a genre? Can one have a genre whose chief features are
> whimsy, brevity, and, er, shoddiness?
If there's enough of it around that clearly falls into
that category, then sure, why not? Especially if there
are authors that are deliberately setting out to create
works of that type because there's a perceived demand
for them. Like I said, gravitational attraction.
> This starts to suggest that competitions and judged anthologies are
> instrumental in forming genres, at least in this community.
That wouldn't be surprising.
> So is "art
> show piece" a genre too? I think not quite, though, because art show
> pieces in fact vary a fair bit.
Yes, I think it would be too simplistic to view it
that way. Things like the comp and the art show bring
people together and get them talking about each other's
works, possibly imitiating their styles and thus
initiating the growth of a new genre. But the
gathering itself doesn't automatically create a genre.
> I'm also a bit unsure what to do
> with things like "The Baron" and (on a very different wavelength)
> "Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies", which do not *yet* belong to any
> established genre, but which are quite explicit up front about the fact
> that they are trying an unusual interaction style.
That would be Wacko Experimental, then. :-)
> "Weary Dilbertesque Office Farce [caffeine jokes optional]" and
> "The Author's House, with Inexplicable Dragons".
I'm not sure how many "Author's House" games there really
are, but folklore seems to have down as a kind of rite of
passage for new IF authors. If that's true, then there are
probably enough of them for it to qualify as a genre of
I can't remember hearing of any actual "Dilbertesque Office
Farce" games, though, so in that case, no. Or did you
have some real games in mind for this?
Possibly yes, because there are many possible roles for a choice in a
game. You get at this in the "Consequences of a choice might be..."
bit. Sometimes there's a role for a choice with an obvious outcome, or
a choice with no good outcome.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
There are divisions, but they don't necessarily rise to the level of a
*genre* division, as I'm using the term. You are using the term more
generally, but I think there's a useful level distinction between
common characteristics and common characteristics that are central to
the way the audience imbibes the work.
> BTW, I don't think I'd include "survival horror"
> in the above list, because it's not a user interface
> style like the others. One could imagine it being
> implemented using a variety of different mechanisms --
> text IF, graphical IF, first person, etc.
And it has been, but I do find it significant. UI is not the entirety
of what I'm calling game genre. The UI of _Silent Hill_ is very
similar to, say, _God of War_; but the horror game has a very
different pace and a different set of expectations of what you will be
able to do over the course of the game.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
It is about time he took a turn. He has certainly caused enough
Computerese Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have preferences.
You have biases.
He/She has prejudices.
All IF games are "semantic" -- IF is fundamentally about
exploring meaningful worlds. A purely "syntactic" game (something
like backgammon, I suppose) wouldn't be IF. (About the closest
to a purely syntactic IF game is "The Gostak", which some people
don't think is IF.) IF games are generally written in natural
language, and so some semantic content is generally unavoidable.
Even the most hardened "syntactic" player would probably agree
that a prerequisite of a text adventure is that the text means
something. So the syntactic and semantic players are
just looking at the same thing in two different ways -- it's just that
the syntactic players are concentrating on the part that's less
Perhaps a "text adventure" is something that offers more for
the syntactic player to do, but that doesn't make it any less
What would a game that straddles the two extremes be? A game in
which every interaction is meaningful in the context of the world, and
which makes the player perform lots of object manipulation? As
a "semantic" player I have no particular interest in seeing more
object manipulation -- I don't think it's fundamental to IF, and I
think it's unrelated to the quality of a game. Our game that
straddles the two extremes might be a more popular game with
both types of player -- or more likely, a less unpopular one -- but
I wouldn't agree it's necessarily "better".
It could be two or three backstories, it could be one for each action.
Since *some* actions appear to produce different backstories, I've no
reason not to believe that they *all* produce different backstories.
If the different backstories of Aisle could be formed into a
coherent universe, then I'd be more inclined to call it IF.
> It's not nearly as random as you make
> out. But it *is* up to the player to make sense out of the fragments,
> so in your definition this alone constitutes a type of interactivity.
The player can try to make sense of the fragments, to
"retcon" them into a coherent universe (or even multiple
independent coherent universes), but I don't find this an
especially rewarding activity. I don't gain much or any
insight by doing this; I'd have to dismiss a lot of the fragments
as dreams or delusions, in the manner of an 80s soap opera.
The game tells me up front that there will be different stories
and different characters; there's nothing there to encourage
me to put them all together, other than some personal
sense of neatness.
> Deceptively clever, often funny, at times quite moving.
Maybe, but the same could be said about a lot of things that
are not IF.
It's apparently a trivial issue, but I feel quite concerned about It. From
what I've experienced in other fields, as comics, I think when the notions
of medium, genre, style or technique tend to get mixed, the result is a
distorted picture where most or even all the works in some medium are
perceived as beeing of the same and "only" genre, wich in IF could obscure
its rich potential of variety and possibilities.
> Excessus wrote:
> > Steve wrote:
> >> I think I6 and I7 are both very powerful. But they're not so great at the
> >> multimedia stuff that a lot of people seem to want to do. I was just
> >> bringing that up because people might not be considering those options.
> > It's the natural language of Inform what is bringing fresh newbies like
> > me.
> Something I find quite amusing though, is that whenever someone showed
> up on the newsgroups a couple years back saying "hey, I wanna write an
> IF authoring tool that offers natural language programming," there was
> big laughter, criticism, and the conclusion of the thread was something
> like "get out of here loser". Note that those who were laughing back
> then are today's #1 I7 fans.
Richard, not much of an Inform 7 fan.
We're getting very close to the fundamental weakness of your proposed
"syntactic/semantic" division here, for both players and the games they
It could equally be argued that all players are "semantic" in that they
all seek meaning - however arbitrary - in the context of the game-world
in which they have chosen to immerse themselves. As you say, only a
purely abstract game - a game with arbitrary symbols and rules - like
chess, bridge, or backgammon - can be labelled "syntactic". All IF -
even the most rudimentary cave-crawls - aim to hitch their symbols
meaningfully to the real or the imagined world. The most avant-garde or
ee cummings-like text is only one remove from the everyday objects and
relations we are all accustomed to manipulating in a work of IF.
> Perhaps a "text adventure" is something that offers more for
> the syntactic player to do, but that doesn't make it any less
> "interactive fiction".
It makes the text adventure interactive, but whether it makes it
"fiction" is still, I think, open to debate.
> What would a game that straddles the two extremes be? A game in
> which every interaction is meaningful in the context of the world, and
> which makes the player perform lots of object manipulation?
In my view, yes, provided "lots of object manipulation" has a goal
which is germane to the story and characters, stems from them, and
clarifies something about their relationship.
> a "semantic" player I have no particular interest in seeing more
> object manipulation -- I don't think it's fundamental to IF, and I
> think it's unrelated to the quality of a game.
Our life in the real world consists in manipulating objects to a
greater or lesser degree of abstraction. I don't see how, if a game is
to reflect how we interact with the world, object-manipulation can be
avoided with any success without leaving behind the very medium (IF) on
which this premise is founded. Those that do - that require little
intercession from the player - are approaching closer and closer to
conventional printed fiction, and thus leaving our medium behind.
>Our game that
> straddles the two extremes might be a more popular game with
> both types of player -- or more likely, a less unpopular one -- but
> I wouldn't agree it's necessarily "better".
Agreed. The more successful IF seems to be those games that engage both
our play-instinct and our need for non-trivial meaning in the writing:
good prose, character development, dialogue, meaningful description,
and non-arbitrary puzzles akin to the sort we encounter in our everyday
lives. Those manipulations that fail for one type of player (the
"semantic") are generally arbitrary and obscure, pehaps hidden inder
layers of others, while those that succeed best model our actual
interactions with the physical world.
Personally - and like you, I suspect - I get bored and frustrated the
moment the need for puzzle-solving puts itself above the need for
narrative development. The majority of IF fails on this count alone, in
my view. Things that are to hand are the things we generally use. Thus,
to give a recent example, if a flag is not where we would expect to
find it (a flag-locker) but instead is hiding in the bottom drawer of
our bedroom chest under a bedsheet, mimesis is broken and the game
enters the realm of the purely arbitrary.
Hang on -- avoiding object-manipulation does not *necessarily* mean
leaving the player with nothing to do. What about IF that does involve
a good deal of player intercession but where the model is not primarily
physical? (For instance: any conversational IF; a few works of highly
surreal IF that involve interaction with abstract concepts.) These are
still text-based pieces with parsers and coded interaction models, so
I'd say they do belong to the same medium. Nor are they particularly
close to conventional printed fiction, either.
Zork is hardly the worst offender for randomness and incoherence. And
anyway, this categorization feels a little prejudicial to me -- more
like a set of categories for aesthetic judgment than a set of genres in
the usual sense.
> * Literary -- Coherent setting, serious writing,
> a plot, puzzles integrated with the setting
> and story.
What about puzzleless IF? Or is that Wacko Experimental, instead?
> * Wacko Experimental -- Tries something out of
> the ordinary, e.g. Spider and Web, Galatea,
> Space Under the Window.
I'll accept that we may bin things as "experimental" when they are
clearly the first of a kind. The Baron and Attack of the Yeti Robot
Zombies both fall into this class, I'd say. But at some point there's
the possibility that these prototypes will be emulated, and then I
think it may be worth considering these genres of their own. For
instance, there have been a couple of other games that emulated Space
Under the Window in being hyper-text-like explorations of verbal space
[Threading the Labyrinth, a section of End Means Escape]. I'm not sure
that that constitutes what you would call a major trend, but if there
were another five or ten games of that sort? What then?
As for Spider and Web, I dunno -- it has one element that might be
considered experimental, but actually I don't think I'd put it that
way. For the most part S&W is a fairly traditional blend of story and
> No, Aisle actually contains five backstories - or alternative pasts -
> for the PC:
> 1) The one in which Clare is killed in an accident on the streets of
> 2) The one in which Clare dies of cancer
> 3) The one in which Clare commits suicide
> 4) The one in which Clare leaves the PC
> 5) The one in which Clare is murdered by the PC
So which one does the ending where the PC just buys a bag of
spaghetti belong to?
I'm not denying that you can sort the endings into five (or more,
or fewer) backstories. I'm saying that there's little reason to do so,
and that five incompatible backstories do not a coherent IF universe
> The PC assumes 5 possible different sets of mental characteristics,
> according to which 'history' we have placed him in. Each of the
> interactive events triggered in the supermarket relate to one of these
> histories, filtered through the resultant mental state of the PC.
In other words, you can sort the endings into five different
> It is much more coherent than you contend, and the only random aspect
> of the game is the order in which the scenes are generated. And this is
> under the player's control.
Actually, there's often little logical relationship between the action
the player takes and the story fragment that results. I don't feel
like much in Aisle is under the player's control.
> Each scene throws another into a different, and often surprising, light
> depending on the order of presentation triggered by the player through
> his choices of action.
Here we'll just have to disagree. I think it would have been nice if
the different endings had shed light on each other, but that you'd
have to interpret the game over-generously to find that. To me, it
looks like the author threw in a lot of stuff and hoped it would form
a coherent whole, rather than working to ensure that it did.
Well, we *could* be, but the fact of the matter is that
there hasn't been a substantial body of IF produced
so far that could be described as "text educational
documentary", so that does not, as things stand,
happen to be a genre of IF.
In other words, as I see it, genres are a way of
describing how things are, rather than how they
could theoretically be.
> I also don't feel comfortable with the idea of IF works of the "more story
> than puzzles" (or viceversa) "genre"
I don't think that "more story than puzzles" is the
same kind of distinction as "more short sentences than
long". Or at least, there's a big difference in degree
between them. The former is a major, highly visible
difference between works, whereas the latter is quite
minor. So it's not surprising if people tend to
use "more story than puzzles" as a major axis of
classification when they think back over all the
IF works they've played.
I agree that genre classifications aren't the same
thing as game mechanics classifications, but I also
don't think they're completely orthogonal, either.
As an example, a vast number of first-person perspective
games have been produced which hinge around the player
rushing about shooting at enemies, because that's
one of the exciting things made possible by that
As a result, "first person shooter" has emerged as a
major classification, not because of any grand theory,
but just because that's the way things happen to have
worked out. It's not just a matter of mechanism,
because there are other kinds of game possible using
first-person 3D. Yet it doesn't have an analogue in other
mediums such as book or film, because it relies on
a certain mechanism to make it possible.
> I think when the notions
> of medium, genre, style or technique tend to get mixed, the result is a
> distorted picture where most or even all the works in some medium are
> perceived as beeing of the same and "only" genre, wich in IF could obscure
> its rich potential of variety and possibilities.
Certainly. There are many dimensions along which IF
works can and should be classified. I just don't think
you can find a universal set of axes that are completely
orthogonal and work the same way across all mediums.
A notion like "genre" is inevitably going to mean
somewhat different things in different mediums. One
reason is that different mediums make different things
possible. Another is that genres are not something
pre-existing, but they agglutinate out of the body of
works that get produced. Workers in different mediums
generate different works, so a different set of genres
In any case, the mere fact that we're discussing
genres of IF means that we clearly don't think they're
all the same!