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Magic Words - Interactive Fiction in the 21st Century 288

An anonymous reader writes "1UP has just published a nine-part article on Interactive Fiction, the politically correct name for what used to be called text adventure games (e.g. Zork, Stationfall, etc.). The feature includes an overview of the genre and its history, lengthy interviews with the genre's leading current creators, and resources for aspiring IF writers. Anyone who has fond memories of typing their way through dank caverns or outsmarting leather goddesses and ravenous bugblatter beasts with nothing but a keyboard should read this -- not just for the nostalgia, but to see what's become of the format."
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Magic Words - Interactive Fiction in the 21st Century

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  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:23PM (#8404780) Homepage Journal
    Videlectrix [] hasn't forgotten the "magic" that is interactive fiction!

    P.S.- how do you get past the sous-chef?!
  • XYZZY (Score:5, Interesting)

    by So Called Expert ( 670571 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:25PM (#8404789)
    Graphics are great, but the resolution on my imagination is awesome, and the refresh rate is much better than what you can get today.

    I miss Infocom... not only did they have the best games (at the time, and I daresay the games still are more fun than a lot of the flashy color thingys those kids play nowadays), Infocom had the best packaging, bar none.

    They knew that people would copy the disks, but they also knew if you threw in some 3d glasses, a small piece of pocket fuzz, and a plastic mask, people would gladly pay them anyway.

    • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:43PM (#8404925)

      I miss Infocom... not only did they have the best games (at the time, and I daresay the games still are more fun than a lot of the flashy color thingys those kids play nowadays), Infocom had the best packaging, bar none.

      I'm not sure whether its still in the shops, but a few years ago I bought the Lost Treasures of Infocom, which brings together many of their best games. Unfortunately, you don't get the actual memorabilia -- just a large book with pictures of all the items which accompany each game.

      Infocom were indeed great -- their games had such a wonderful depth. However, many of the modern post-Infocom IF games, such as Curses, Jigsaw, Christminster, A Change in the Weather, really are fantastic -- even bigger and more sophisticated than the original Infocom stuff. All of these games are free (as in beer), and can easily be found on the internet.

      Remember: it's dark and you are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

      • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Informative)

        by irhtfp ( 581712 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:18AM (#8405135)
        There's a huge collection that was put out by Activision (Infocom) called Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom . They don't publish it any more AFAIK but you can pick it up on ebay for $60 to $80 bucks. It includes:

        Arthur: the Quest for Excalibur
        Beyond Zork
        Border Zone
        Hollywood Hijinx
        Leather Goddesses of Phobos
        The Lurking Horror
        A Mind Forever Voyaging
        Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It
        Plundered Hearts
        Sherlock in the Riddle of the Crown Jewels
        The Witness
        Zork I
        Zork II
        Zork III
        Zork Zero

        Zork I, II and III are available for free here: s/downloads.html

        • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Funny)

          by Goldfinger7400 ( 630228 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:00AM (#8405720)
          !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That disc is worth eighty bucks?

          >search desk drawer

          You find a good deal of papers, magazines, empty soda cans etc., but alas, nothing valuable.

          >open closet

          As you tug open the door of the dusty closet, you can feel something tumbling behind it. You realize a bit too late that it's your collection of antique farming implements.

          **** You have died. ****



        • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Informative)

          by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @10:58AM (#8407798) Journal
          Or you *could* get all of them for free at com

          Bandwidth friendly games, Suspended is 86k zipped LOL.

          Of course, that's like the last site in the universe that needs a good slashdotting.
      • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stwrtpj ( 518864 ) <> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:28AM (#8405542) Journal
        I'm not sure whether its still in the shops, but a few years ago I bought the Lost Treasures of Infocom, which brings together many of their best games.

        What's really cool about these games is that the data files for the games are platform-agnostic. I originally bought a Lost Treasures before I became a 100% Linux convert, and to my delight discovered that the Linux port of the Inform parser ran these games perfectly from the data files. Same thing when I got a hold of some old Scott Adams game files and the parser for it.

        • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:47AM (#8406308) Journal
          Except for games that use audio or graphics, Linux has pretty much spot-on compatibility with any IF game, as do most operating systems. IF games are extremely portable, written to one of a number of portable VMs (and all this years before Java...and with better compatibility than Java).

          TADS (IMHO the most advanced engine, though Inform is very close) just plain runs on Linux. You want this to play .gam files.
          There is Frotz to run Inform (.z5 files...I believe a couple other .zX formats, but I've only played .z5).
          There is an ADRIFT implementation called SCARE [] for Linux. It has a less-than-perfect parser. To be honest, ADRIFT is a much simpler engine, and I generally fine TADS or Inform games to be much more fun and impressive.

          Note that other classic adventure game VMs -- the ones for commercial graphical adventures -- like the Sierra (King's Quest, among others) and Lucasarts (Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, Secret of Monkey Island, among others) VMs have been ported to Linux in the form of Sarien [], FreeSCI [], and ScummVM []. I don't believe there have been any new AGI/SCI/SCUMM adventures made -- the engines are static and no improved games will be made for them, but they're still neat projects to have fun playing the originals on.
    • Re:XYZZY (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dukael_Mikakis ( 686324 ) <> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:55PM (#8404997)
      Yeah, unfortunately, gamers these days are from an entirely different generation than those of 10 - 20 years ago.

      With MTV and flashy graphics and an emphasis on getting a quick hit, it seems like entertainment requiring "investment" is falling from our culture. Sports games are designed to have mere 5 minute quarters, there are FPS that allow you to jump in get 10 kills and bail, and many good television shows containing a consistent storyline (rather than the flavor-of-the-week variety) don't end up being so successful (running jokes/themes aside).

      It's likewise no surprise that the old computer game staples (adventure games, text games, those ASCII RPGs) are becoming increasingly less popular.

      But perhaps there is hope. Books (something I deem to be a yardstick for people's interest in imaginative entertainment and attention-span -- as true or not as it may be) have been selling increasingly more [].

      People say that books are a dying medium, but perhaps some life remains with the success of Harry Potter and perhaps the frequent coupling of Hollywood blockbusters with current novels.

      But I guess we'll have to see if games start taking a new route, themselves.
      • Re:XYZZY (Score:3, Flamebait)

        by spirality ( 188417 )
        Everquest, IMHO, beats the hell out of any text adventure I ever played, ever!

        It also is extremely popular and requires a good deal time, i.e. investment, to play and play well.

        Of course, no game is a substitute for reading or writing something. I do not ever begin to believe the written word is dying. Even if 90% of what is published is garbage, there is a ton of very good stuff that is decades, nay even centuries old. Pick up some of those...

      • Man... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Azureflare ( 645778 )
        Not even thirty and I feel like an old fogy ;_;

        What's the world coming to where you turn into a crotchety old guy at mid-twenties? I think exactly the same way you do about the situation of gaming, but I realize our attitudes are similar to those old fogies who go around saying "Back in my day we had to walk through 6 feet of snow etc."

        I'm really hoping Video games will go through a period of revitalization, 'cause they're heading down the path of mass commercialization.

      • Re:XYZZY (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fenix down ( 206580 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:26AM (#8406025)
        Goddamn, U think you just accidentally deciphered a "what the fuck is she talking about?" conversation I had like 6 exes back. I was trying to get her to play Mario Kart or something, and she started complaining about how video games were hard. I said something stupid about having to play a little and then you'll get good, and then she said "no, no, I mean, why do they make it so you loose if you're not any good?" Then I probably said "bitch, you be trippin'" and then she probably kicked me in the nuts and went home, but now I think I get it!

        You have a few text games (usually recent ones that aren't commercial, I can't think of a name, but I know I remember playing one with a mansion and some french guys that I never finished) that aren't puzzles or anything. You don't pick the wrong road and get eaten by a monkey plant or anything, you just participate in a story. You can die, but it's not like you have to keep replaying over and over to find the one way out that doesn't have a dragon hiding in it. More role playing, less game.

        Now, I hate RPGs, in general, but I liked Knights of the Old Republic. I played through once, being evil as possible, and then I went back and played through as good as possible. Then I wanted to go back and do a few things differently, but I actually didn't want to do all the shooting and light-sabreing. I just wanted to go around being a Jedi and meddling in galactic intrigue. And just now I realized I probably would've bought the game (in retrospect anyway) if it had just been the talking and the picking where to go next with the battle money spent on more depth.

        It's like one of the movies only you can make your Jedi force-choke the bajesus out of the annoying computer-generated locals whenever you want! That's where you need to go. I bet there are a lot of people who just hate having to do the "storming the building over and over until you don't die" thing that makes finally beating it more fun for me. No puzzles, no gratuitous item-hunting, just a branching storyline you get to move around in.

        Of course, I'll start making fun of this genre the moment it appears, just like with RPGs, but I bet it'd make some money.
    • Re:XYZZY (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Futaba-chan ( 541818 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:59AM (#8405375)
      Graphics are great, but the resolution on my imagination is awesome, and the refresh rate is much better than what you can get today.

      From the author's perspective, my entry in this year's IF competition is going to be a Western that spends a lot of time as a character study of its main NPC, and whose overall theme centers on making difficult moral choices in an uncertain and multipolar world. In any other genre, it would be difficult or impossible to round up the large team that I'd need to implement such a thing, and who would play it? In IF, if I can execute it properly, I can really make the concept work.

  • Archive of IF games (Score:5, Informative)

    by smr2x ( 266420 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:25PM (#8404792) Homepage [] seems like the right place for all you nostalgic types... or the curious ;-)

    • by irhtfp ( 581712 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:23AM (#8405163)
      Try ashes.exe (archive) at: r s.html

      It's got two of the most popular interpreters and about 50 games. It's a great place to start if you want to get back into the IF scene.

      I recommend "Curses" as a first start. It's big, has good puzzles and a great dry wit.

  • by ( 562495 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:26PM (#8404795) Homepage
    last year somebody died of excessing gaming (maybe one of those Interactive Fiction games), trying to go through this NINE-part article made me wanna kill myself. ;)
  • Interactive Books (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dotwaffle ( 610149 ) <slashdot AT walster DOT org> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:26PM (#8404798) Homepage
    Anyone remember interactive books? Yeah, remember those? Like, you were given a decision, turn to 461 for hit him, 421 for run away, 124 for invite him to dinner. They were good... Much better than text games, for a start I don't have to stare at a screen...
    • Re:Interactive Books (Score:2, Informative)

      by boobox ( 673856 )
      Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch [] is a good example of what I guess you'd call an interactive book (pre-internet hypertext? Written in 1966). There were, if memory serves, a couple of ways to read the book; one was to "hop" to certain chapters in a prescribed order.
      • Re:Interactive Books (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bodrius ( 191265 )
        As outstanding as the book is, I wouldn't call it "interactive fiction". The plot is static, if open to interpretation (like any good fiction).

        It was an excercise in literary techniques. The "out-of-sequence" process you mention was just another postmodernist toy, and not the most radical in its school by any means (although more readable, therefore successful).

        It could be seen as a natural progression from previous experiments in sequence, back to Borges (whom I think Cortazar admired specially).
        • by boobox ( 673856 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:04AM (#8405401)
          Yes, you are correct.

          It's been a while since I read it, so I did a little Googling and found this interesting article by Phil Goetz here. []

          Here's a relevant quote:

          "Hypertext is text with links. Links take you from one text to another. Sometimes there is a default linear path which the reader can follow through the narrative, and the links are optional.

          For instance, say you were reading the hypertext version of Hamlet on an Apple Macintosh. After reading Act II, you might be prompted, 'Should Hamlet (A) kill his uncle, (B) leave the country, or (C) mope about life and death?' You type 'A', and read a considerably shortened version of Hamlet (This exhibits one problem with interactive fiction - sometimes the action which builds up to more dramatic climax is not the action which a goal-oriented reader would take.)...

          ...Jorge Luis Borges described such a book (though he did not write one) in 'El jardin de senderos que se bifurca' ('The garden of forking paths') in 1941 (Fishburn, 1990):

          'In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the almost unfathomable Ts'ui Pen, he chooses - simultaneosly - all of them... Fang, let us say, has a secret. A stranger knocks at his door. Fang makes up his mind to kill him. Naturally there are varios possible outcomes. Fang can kill the intruder, the intruder can kill Fang, both can be saved, both can die and so on and so on. In Ts'ui Pen's work, all the possible solutions occur, each one being the point of departrre for other bifurcations. Sometimes the pathways for this labyrinth converge. For example, you come to this house: but in some possible pasts you are my enemy: in others my friend.' (Borges, 1944)

          In the same year Borges described a backwards hypertext fiction, the likes of which has never been written, in 'An examination of the work of Herbert Quain' (Borges, 1944). Herbert Quain's supposed book April March was a backwards-branching hypertext. The first chapter described the events of an evening. The next theee chapters describe three alternate prececling evenings. The next nine chapters describe nine alternate evenings before those in the second through fourth chapters with three possible preludes to each of those three chapters. There never was any such book; Borges often pretended to review an imaginary book in order to explain the principles he had in mind for a book without actually writing it.

          Julio Cortazar wrote the novel Rayuela (Hopscotch) in 1963, which is a simple non-interactive type of hypertext. He provides two ways of reading it: With or without a set of optional chapters between the required chapters (Cortazar, 1966). To my lnowledge, the only interactive fiction written on paper before it had been demonstrated on a computer was 'Norman vs America', a 20-frame cartoon by Charles Platt based on an idea by John Sladek, published in an underground comic in 1971 (Platt, 1971)."
    • You mean these []? Yep, I currently have to walk around three piles of them to sit at my PC at home.
    • Re:Interactive Books (Score:5, Interesting)

      by OECD ( 639690 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:46PM (#8404948) Journal

      Anyone remember interactive books?

      Remember them? I still have them...

      Interactive books might be the ultimate geek test.

      If you were willing to try and figure out the world-view of the game designer by hit-and-miss selection, congratulations: you're a geek. If you read it once or twice, and chucked it because too much of it was the same as the last time you read it... well, I guess you'd be a 'trusted user' or somesuch.

      Same goes with text adventures (or whatever the kids call them thesedays. BTW, how do you get by the bulldozer?)

    • by Tonith ( 733145 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:13AM (#8406200) Homepage
      If you want to kill the ogre, turn to page 452.
      [turns to page 452]
      The ogre laughs at your pitiful attempt to kill him and rends the flesh from your bones.
      "Damnit!" [turns back to page 231]

      If you want to befriend the ogre, turn to page 294.
      [turns to page 294]
      The ogre befriends you - with an ogre-hug of epic proportions. You are crushed to a pulp.
      "Damnit!" [turns back to page 231]

      If you want to run away from the ogre, turn to page 583.
      [turns to page 583]
      You turn to run away, and run smack into a tree. While you stumble back, the ogre picks you up and throws you off a nearby cliff. Your body plummets onto several sharp pointy rocks, and you see vultures start to circle around you. "Damnit!"

      I never won at those things. Stupid ogres.
    • Re:Interactive Books (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SlipJig ( 184130 )
      I used to play (read?) an interactive book/game that simulated WWI air combat: Ace of Aces []. Totally weird but fun! The book had pictures of the planes from various angles, firing, etc. You would declare a maneuver, and then turn to the correct page showing the outcome. Your opponent had his own book.
  • PC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rexz ( 724700 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:26PM (#8404802)
    "...Interactive Fiction, the politically correct name for what used to be called text adventure games

    What a silly thing to say. Did the makers of the games feel insulted by the label? Were the games themselves offended? Is "text" to "fiction" what "coloured" is to "black? Of course not.

    Just because someone comes up with a brand-new, improved-formula, pro-active name doesn't mean that it's more politically correct, or even better, than the old one.

    • Re:PC? (Score:2, Insightful)

      What a silly thing to say. Did the makers of the games feel insulted by the label?

      Well, people that wouldn't be caught dead playing adventure games wouldn't buy a "text adventure", but a lot of them read fiction. So the companies making text adventures tried to expand their demographic by neutering their language. Of course I don't think it really did them much good in the end, did it?

    • Re:PC? (Score:5, Funny)

      by dilby ( 725275 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:41AM (#8405274) Journal
      I would have thought they'd call them graphically challenged adventure games.
    • Re:PC? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fenix down ( 206580 )
      It's politically correct because not all interactive fiction games are adventues, hence not calling it a text adventure when it's a mystery story, or perhaps a bodice-ripping romance, if anybody's done one of those, which I strongly believe they should, and if they have then they probably didn't like people calling it an adventure. So, replacing the stereotype with a generally descriptive name is politically correct.
    • Re:PC? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dennis G. Jerz ( 473507 ) <> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:51AM (#8405668) Homepage
      For an audience that is more familiar with literature than computer games, I use "interactive fiction," emphasizing that the game uses blocks of prose to describe events and things, but that it reacts to your input. For an audience familiar with computers, "text adventure" or "adventure game" is usually enough.

      Some contemporary offerings aren't "adventures" -- they are character studies, one-room mysteries, flashbacks, or puzzle-based wordplay. To call them all "adventures" is limiting. Calling it "text-parser-based interactive fiction" is probalby more accurate, but unwieldy. A good deal of classic commercial games included both a text parser and graphics, so "text" isn't always the defining factor.

      Some academics use the term "interactive fiction" to describe literary hypertext. And some "interactive fiction" is actually very linear, giving only the illusion of player agency. So even the "preferred" term is imperfect.

      I'm not aware of any fan or designer of IF who would be upset if someone said, "Hey, is that an adventure game you're playing?" Take "politcally correct" in the Slashdot article as a lighthearted poke, nothing serious.
  • by perimorph ( 635149 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:26PM (#8404805)
    My favourite part was the endless game of seeing how many different ways you could type a sentence before the computer realized what you were talking about. Ah, nostalgia!
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:27PM (#8404808) Journal
    of a maze of twisted paragraphs, all of them alike
  • play Zork here (Score:5, Informative)

    by $$$$$exyGal ( 638164 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:29PM (#8404823) Homepage Journal
    Here is just one of many places: Play Zork [].
  • by BoldAC ( 735721 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:29PM (#8404824)
    I know that I am getting old when I think of interactive fiction as those old "choose your own adventure" books.

    If you would like the stab the dragon, turn to page 23.

    If you would like to tickle the dragons underbelly, turn to page 56.

    Plus, I had such a short attention span, I could never remember the "death pages" until I had already turned to them 3 or 4 times.

    What great literature that was! The skill it took to write a death page that covered all the potential ways you could have gotten there. And we thinking coding is hard...

  • text adventure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:29PM (#8404825)
    what used to be called text adventure games

    What ever happened to "choose your own adventure" books?? That's what I think of when I hear the phrase. Am I THAT old??? Anyhow, anyone else here remember TradeWars 2002? ;-)
    • TradeWars was the best.

      I used to skip straight to the decision pages in the Choose Your Own Adventure books. You could finish a whole book in like 2 minutes.
    • trade wars info (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:44PM (#8404929) Journal
      Anyhow, anyone else here remember TradeWars 2002? ;-)

      You can sometimes still play it online, often via telnet:

      The Home Sector []: Lots of Tradewars news.

      Tradewars: Dark Millenium []: Large-scale multiplayer game in development. Seems to be based on Tradewars 2002 under an agreement with EIS Online. []: Tradewars news, links, and more.

      EIS Online []: The current owners of Tradewars 2002, the best known Tradewars clone. They also market Tradewars Gold and and the Tradewars Game Server for online play. TradeWars 2002 is up to version 3

      Hekate's TW Links []: News, links, and everything else.

      TWAR Homepage []: Home of the TWAR helper.

  • Hitchhiker's Guide! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:32PM (#8404839) Homepage
    The feature includes an overview of the genre and its history,

    Man, and only one brief mention of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    Seriously, that game takes the prize for descriptive prose. Forget "eerie dungeons" and "lush fields" and whatnot--the opening takes the cake:

    "You wake up. The room is spinning very gently round your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can't."
  • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:33PM (#8404844)
    I just wish they'd explain to me how to get ye flask.

    Instead I just have to sit here wondering WHY I can't get ye flask!
  • Z Machine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:34PM (#8404850)

    Almost all of the classic Infocom games, except some of the later Zork series, were written in a bytecode-like language which ran on a virtual machine known as a Z machine. This is why the old Infocom games can be played on any platform which has had a Z machine ported to it.

    Inform, which is mentioned in the article, is actually a compiler which converts a high-level language into Z-machine bytecode. It was devised and written by Graham Nelson, the author of the breathtakingly-fantastic Curses and Jigsaw . Both of these games, plus the Inform compiler, plus a Z machine for just about every type of machine, can be downloaded from the Inform homepage []

  • The irony... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:36PM (#8404864)
    ... is that, today, it's much easier to write a simple piece of interactive fiction than ever before, yet it's far less popular nowadays. I personally like TADS, but I'm sure there are other excellent systems.

    A point I'd like to make, though:

    As someone who's done a LOT of serious area writing on diverse MUDs (both RP-enforced and hack and slash) and has dabbled in IF, I must stress that writing IF and writing on a MUD are two completely different things. I know someone's going to compare the two and claim IF's still alive and well in the form of MUDs, but it's not even close to the same thing. Your skill set in creating a MUD area doesn't automatically map to IF, and vica versa.

    Good IF requires FAR more attention to detail than the average MUD. On a typical MUD, you can get away with only one or two levels of details because the players are busy interacting with other people. In IF, you've got to really hammer in those details to bring out a convincing world (usually - that Arabian Nights-esque game that was in the IF Comp a year or two ago was basically choose your own adventure, yet was extremely good), because the world is all there is.

    IF != MUDs. That is all I want to point out, before someone claims it's so.

  • Dunnet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:36PM (#8404869)

    Ah, the joy of typing M-x dunnet into emacs:

    Dead end
    You are at a dead end of a dirt road. The road goes to the east.
    In the distance you can see that it will eventually fork off. The
    trees here are very tall royal palms, and they are spaced equidistant
    from each other.
    There is a shovel here.

    The only text editor to have a built-in advdenture game?

    • Re:Dunnet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:39PM (#8404901)
      And the best part: you can cheat by reading the straight Lisp code. I must confess I had to do it once, just for some syntax.

      Dunnet is actually quite fun, and I'd recommend people who like IF to give it a shot.

  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:37PM (#8404877)
    a length of rubber tubing, some lubricant, and a Yak...

    Leather Goddesses of Phobos by InfoCom

    p.s. It seemed funny at the time

    • I often say this to my wife when we're working on our
      house (struggling with plumbing as Trent/Tiffany struggled with the tubing and the photo of Jean Harlow: "We'll lick those Leather Goddesses of Phobos!"

      I also love how in the end game, when Trent/Tiffany needs a part for the machine which you don't have, he/she says "Well, I'll try and work around the X..." but of course the incomplete machine ends in failure (with a different description depending on what part is missing.)

      No thread on IF would be compl
    • Leather Goddesses of Phobos by InfoCom

      I remember when I purchased this game new for my C64 while I was still a teen living with my parents. I went so far as to paste a fake label on the floppy disk to disguise the game so I didn't have to answer awkward questions from my parents if they saw it lying around. I thought I was being so "naughty" by getting this game (young AND foolish you see ...).

      Never finished the game in my youth. Then I got married to someone who liked these games as much as I did but had

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...but the text adventure genre is dead.

    Kids today are only interested in cool graphics. Ever since DOOM, they've been basically buying the same game, but with nicer graphics than the previous version. Seen one FPS, seen 'em all. They're too lazy to use their imaginations.

    Graphics are nice, but I haven't seen (not counting networked multiplayer) a modern PC game yet that can truly match the replayability of some of the Atari, Colecovision, NES and Genesis games.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ..but the text adventure genre is dead.

      Kids today are only interested in cool graphics. Ever since DOOM, they've been basically buying the same game, but with nicer graphics than the previous version. Seen one FPS, seen 'em all. They're too lazy to use their imaginations.

      Yeah, but kids aren't the only ones playing games. There's a small but thriving community creating dozens of new games each year, several of which are comparable to the original Infocom games. If interactive fiction was alive when

    • Not only that, but all of the answers to the puzzles are available online for free.

      I grew up playing Sierra's adventure games. It usually took me at least a couple of weeks to get through one of them. I'd get stuck and try everything I could think of, and then come back the next day and try again. Kids today don't have that kind of attention span for games; they'd rather just find a walkthrough, and text adventure games aren't very interesting without the puzzles.

    • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:50AM (#8406461)

      Ever since DOOM, they've been basically buying the same game

      Not true. After Doom, the next major step was Quake, which brought real 3d spaces and true up/down. And then came Half Life, with many new things and concepts to master. The tri-tentacle terror that hunts on sound is one of the most beautifully executed FPS game sequences I have seen.

      Furthermore, the rise of real 3d has given birth to 3d FPS, to Deux Ex, to Everquest and many other games.

      And wait till you see Half-Life 2 and Doom 3. Your jaw will drop to the floor, not only by the graphics, but also by the gameplay, which is made possible by the graphics.

  • by Rope_a_Dope ( 522981 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:42PM (#8404911)
    There's the newsgroups:

    And there is also the yearly interactive fiction competition. [] The competition is a fairly big deal in the Interactive Fiction community, as fans submit games, play them, and rate them. 30 games were submitted this year. There are also a number of games, and interpreters that run on everything from Windows, Mac, Linux, Palm, and almost anything else you can think of.

  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:42PM (#8404920) Homepage
    ...for fear of being eaten by a Gru!
  • Heh...The Count (Score:2, Informative)

    by big_groo ( 237634 )
    The Count [] - Vic 20.

    Great game.

  • by panaceaa ( 205396 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:50PM (#8404967) Homepage Journal
    How is Interactive Fiction more politically correct than Text Adventure? What's politically incorrect about Text Adventure? Once apon a time the Adventure genre dominated the gaming industry (Sierra). So Text Adventure games are just adventure games done only with text. What's wrong with that?

    Interactive Fiction describes any type of game on the market. Every game is interactive, and every game is make-believe (fiction). How does it describe text adventure games?

    Can someone explain to me why this name change was adopted?? It seems to me that the developers were just embarassed that their games didn't involve any new technologies so they renamed their genre to sound more interesting.
    • Interactive Fiction describes any type of game on the market. Every game is interactive, and every game is make-believe (fiction). How does it describe text adventure games?

      Because interactive fiction is closer to the high-quality fiction one might buy in a bookstore, than it is to the video games one might buy in a gaming store. Consider this: on the one hand we have Curses, a masterpiece of language and storytelling; and on the other we have 'All your base are belong to us'. Quite different. The term

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Please don't get the idea that "interactive fiction" is the mandatory
        new name, used by all in the community. It's not.

        Sure, I say "IF" sometimes. Mostly because it's two keystrokes and
        two syllables... I say "text adventures" and "text games" just as

        I think most of us are relatively non-uptight about the terminology.
        Some of us are aiming towards works with fewer game-like elements, and
        some more so -- but even that's a question of the work itself. Not
        what people call it.

        -- Andrew Plotkin
    • There's nothing politically incorrect about the term "text adventure". The original poster was just being silly. I use the term "text adventure" all the time, to refer to this broad genre of games.

      However, the term "interactive fiction" implies a much higher standard of quality, probably because Infocom popularized the term and their games were clearly more sophisticated than most others of the time. From the opening sequence to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it looks like Infocom was using the

  • by sigma ( 53086 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:55PM (#8404995)
    You are in a maze of twisty little comments, all alike...
  • I wrote that program in 84 - it was a cool Text adventure.
    The VZ300 sold by Dick Smith was the first micro under $200 (and that's the reason I got one)
  • .. do all of the old bonus majick words work still?


  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:01AM (#8405028)
    You are in a comfortable tunnel like hall to the east the the round green door you see: the wooden chest. Gandalf. Gandalf is carrying the curious map. Thorin. Gandalf gives the curious map to you. > HIT GANDALF You attack Gandalf. But the effort is wasted. His defense is too strong. Gandalf attacks you. With one well place blow Gandalf cleaves your skull. You are dead. You have mastered 0.0% of this adventure.
  • well obviously no one plays new games any more, try this one -

    its a pc (dos/windows) text adventure. yes yes I do want to port it to linux, but the code is soooo freaking messy (turbo pascal v7 - dos) with custom calls it might be fun trying.

    and then there's trek7 over at sourceforge, check that out. oh god, please help. hehehe

    and does anyone remember Beaurocracy ? I think this was douglas adams game for Infocom. I love this game!

    "I'm sorry, but there's a radio connec
  • Microsoft representatives release statements that their software is only penetrated after patches are released, and we respond on slashdot....

  • I thought this article was informative, though a bit heavy on the interviews... One or two people would have been sufficient, but I think they interviewed about five.

    Other than that, this was a bit of nostalgia from the good ol' days. I really think the companies that produced adventure games back in the day should re-release them on an archive CD of sorts. I'd pay fifty bucks for that! (Of course, I say the same about the original Mission Impossible series, the original Star Trek series, and a lot of other

    • I really think the companies that produced adventure games back in the day should re-release them on an archive CD of sorts. I'd pay fifty bucks for that! Activision did precisely that, for $20, with its Lost Treasures of Infocom, back in the Nineties.
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:32AM (#8405219)
    I've always been puzzled at how games in the so called "adventure" genre were all about puzzles. Why not just call them Puzzle Games then. An "Adventure" game should be about exploring some kind of interesting game world, not about twisting levers in a certain way. I always hated the puzzles in Zork. Those stupid dam controls. Give me a break. I think CRPGs were what adventure games were intended to be.

    IMO, all computer games should contain an element of interactive fiction. At least until virtual reality has reached near holodeck levels, we will need text descriptions. Even a holodeck uses lots of text in terms of character dialogue. It's just spoken instead of written. When you combine good modern game design with interactive fiction you end up with something like Planescape:Torment, a computer game that some believe to be the best ever made. It was the interactive fiction aspect of the game that made it stand out from the competition.
    • I've always been puzzled at how games in the so called "adventure" genre were all about puzzles.

      That's not the case, necessarily, any more -- look at Photopia or Galatea, for example. Contrived puzzles were always a pet peeve of mine, too, which is why A Mind Forever Voyaging was my favorite game of the classic Infocom era. But at their best, good IF games can combine a deep sense of immersion with a powerful story in which the author can be somewhat literary, for an experience that depressingly few bi

  • by thesilverbail ( 593897 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:42AM (#8405279) Homepage
    I'm a PhD student at the University of Illinois. I do research in AI and automated reasoning.

    Currently my research involves text adventures. My advisor [] and I believe that text adventure games could serve as an excellent testbed for research in intelligent agent behaviour cause they model a number of real-world challenges, like partially observable world states, incompletely specified goals, and the need for common-sense reasoning and belief revision. Here [] is his paper on the subject.

    I'm currently working on doing Logical Filtering [] in an adventure game, which is a way to maintain a sort of belief about the current state of your world depending on your prior knowledge and observations. Somewhat like filtering in a Hidden Markov model [].

    Some people at Saarland University, Germany, are also doing great work [] on description logics [] in adventure games. A description logic is like a language where you express concepts and the relations between them so that inferring properties is very easy.

    It would be great to get some feedback and suggestions from the IF community about what they think about this. Is there any really cool idea you've had about what more could be done with adventure games? I mean many games have some standard stuff like inventories, containers etc. Is there something fundamentally different you've ever thought of doing. Something which involves creative and complex relationships between entities in an adventure games is what we're looking for. Thanks.

    • With all the power that home computers have these days, I have often thought that if AI was put into interactive fiction, it could take advantage of unused computer power, and make IF viable again.

      The question is how to do it? I am not a programmer or an expert on AI, so I do not know what is possible or not, but I have often wondered what might happen if you created an agent for the game, and let it learn there. For example just have it go around and interact with its environment. Give it every command po

      • The main problem is that an AI capable of entertaining and interacting with a human would have to be very complex. The complexity of an IF world is very small compared to what it would take to train an AI.

        You know those stories about people that get stranded somewhere in a foreign country, and have to perform an amazing act to learn and understand what's going on? A human baby learns extremely quickly. Each human manages to do this, to go from zero knowledge of any language to speaking and comprehending
    • I'm currently working on doing Logical Filtering in an adventure game, which is a way to maintain a sort of belief about the current state of your world depending on your prior knowledge and observations. Somewhat like filtering in a Hidden Markov model.

      Deep knowledge representation is well and good in research projects and perhaps single player games. Once you try to scale it up to a MUD, for even simple things like "known names" (of people and objects), you find yourself wishing for many more gigs of R
    • by Dan Crash ( 22904 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:29PM (#8411890) Journal
      I'd love to see an open source project that integrates OpenCyc [] into an interactive fiction programming suite.

      The primary benefit I see in doing this is that instead of requiring users to complete excruciatingly specific chains of actions to achieve a goal, programmers could set goalstates and let the creativity of their players run wild trying to achieve them. OpenCyc's inference engine should be able to determine whether the goalstate was achieved or not, based on the properties of the objects.

      This would, of course, make for an entirely different interactive fiction experience. Up until now, interactive fiction programming has focused on creating intuitive but nonobvious chains of reasoning and rewarding the player for discovering these sequences. Goal-based interactive fiction would place a greater focus on designing situations based on the properties of your objects. For example:

      The Guard Room is filled with weapons. There are several shotguns mounted on the wall, next to a cabinet full of ammo. There is a filing cabinet in the corner, and a map of the prison on the wall.

      There is a desk here with a phone, a lamp, a letter opener, and guard who seems to have fallen asleep while doing paperwork. It's Jimmy. The nice guard. Poor kid. You feel bad that he has to die so you can be free.

      In a normal IF game, there would be one preferred way to solve this problem. Perhaps two, if the author felt especially creative. But an OpenCyc enabled game would let you examine the room in increasing detail, and use any and all of the objects you find to achieve the goal of incapacitating Jimmy.

      Instead of being required to, say, grab a gun from the shotgun rack and shoot Jimmy in order to move past him, you might decide electrocuting Jimmy is quieter and smarter:
      > get letter opener from desk.

      Taken. Jimmy snores quietly but does not budge.

      > cut lamp cord with letter opener

      You are electrocuted. You have died.

      Oops. OpenCyc knew that the letter opener was metal and that the lamp cord was plugged in, and that a human being could be electrocuted by doing this. Next time you unplug the lamp before cutting the cord and electrocuting Jimmy. Or maybe you tie him up with the lamp cord, and don't kill him. Your choice.

      What makes this style of gameplay especially intriguing is that solutions could emerge which would surprise the author. It might even be fun to create situations which have no immediate solution and see if, through clever introspection, one might not emerge. Sharing your unique solutions with others would be part of the fun of playing the game.

      By building on OpenCyc, the effort one programmer takes to define objects could be used and amplified by other authors. It could perhaps even be used by the general OpenCyc community in other applications. If nothing else, the challenge of trying to create a goal-based interactive fiction language that was powered by a common-sense inference engine like OpenCyc would be a heck of a lot of fun.

  • by Fermata ( 644706 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:53AM (#8405349)
    I always thought an interesting application for "modern" interactive fiction would be to apply the technologies of voice recognition and speech synthesis to IF. The structure of the IF game itself would remain the same - only all of the interaction is through listening/speaking rather than reading/typing.

    So on your next long drive to nowhere in particular, you could play an IF game on your car's computer instead of listening to a non-interactive audio book or some tunes on the CD player/radio.

    Obviously, this kind of thing might also be fun for the visually-impaired gamer.

    Any idea if anyone has ever done this?
  • New book (Score:5, Informative)

    by illuminatedwax ( 537131 ) <stdrange@alumni.uchic a g o . edu> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:11AM (#8405437) Journal
    The Onion AV club has a review of Twisty Little Passages [], a new book about interactive fiction by Nick Montfort.


  • by adamcadre ( 757011 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:45AM (#8405644)
    There's been some (mostly negative) talk here about the term "interactive fiction"... and Andrew Plotkin has pointed out that no one involved in IF really insists on the term. That said, I recently rewrote the introduction to my own IF page, and since it seems relevant to the discussion, here's an abridged version:

    To most people who've heard of it, the entry for "interactive fiction" in their mental dictionaries goes something like this: "
    Interactive fiction, noun. A fancy name for text adventures, a type of computer game popular in the early 1980s despite having no graphics. Usually involved wandering around in caves solving complicated puzzles, and became completely obsolete around the time Reagan left office, as graphics became less crappy."

    The problem with this definition is that the medium of interactive fiction is no more a relic of the 1980s than the novel is a relic of the 17th century. [...] Now, it's true, a lot of IF works (even today) are games, and you have to solve puzzles in order to "win." Even a few of mine are like that (and I've identified how gamelike each one is [on my IF page]). But they don't have to be, and most of mine aren't. They're stories [...] with the twist that you get to participate in the telling.

    In interviews I'm often asked to comment on how IF compares to various computer game genres, and I usually don't have much to say because my interest in computer games is minimal. I'm not a gamer. I'm a writer. Every time modern IF comes up on Slashdot, a hundred people dredge up how great Infocom was... but I've never cared for most of Infocom's offerings. "Text adventure games" bore me. I have little interest in and even less patience for solving puzzles, and most of my IF reflects this. So it seems to me silly to call something like Photopia or Narcolepsy a "text game," because they're not games. They have a lot more in common with works like The Sweet Hereafter and The Big Lebowski than they do with Zork. So I call them interactive fiction, not to make them sound more important, but simply because it's a more accurate name.

    Adam Cadre, Holyoke, MA

  • by jamie ( 78724 ) * <> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:59AM (#8405714) Journal
    I remember playing a text adventure on a DEC PDP-10 back in the early '80s, but I've never been able to find reference to it since. I'm almost sure it was called "Crystal Caves" or "Caverns" or something.

    The main parts I remember are wandering around a city in a taxicab, trying to find something to do. The text used to read something like "There is a taxi stand here, and a cabbie waiting for a fare." And then there was a scene in a bar in the city where the description read something like "One of them asks for a match, and everyone laughs uproariously." (I didn't get the joke at the time, not that it's a very funny joke.)

    I eventually found my way into an adventure of some sort because I remember there being a cave or dungeon or something, with a sign over a door reading "Breathes there a man with soul so dead," or some other quip about a soul.

    I never got very far into the game, and I never have seen any mention of it since...

  • Photopia (Score:4, Informative)

    by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:31AM (#8405845) Homepage Journal
    I highly recommend Photopia []. It's a really cool interactive fiction that can be played in less than 2 hours.
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @09:13AM (#8406976) Homepage
    Hey, how about the best of both worlds:
    >+-+-+-+-+-GO NORTH

    You see two Orcs and an Enforcer


    The Orc explodes in a bloody spray of meat


    You are out of ammo. The Enforcer hits you, -10.


    You miss the Enforcer. The Orc hits you, -5.


    The Enforcer explodes in a bloody spray of meat.
    The Orc hits you, -5.


    The Orc explodes in a bloody spray of meat.




    You now have 55 rockets


    You see 3 Orcs and 2 Grunts.


  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @10:27AM (#8407468)

    >Examine lamp

    The dusty silver oil Lamp is very old. There are some words engraved on the side of the Lamp.

    >Read words

    You cannot read them. They are covered in dust.

    >Wipe lamp

    As you wipe away the dust, the lamp shudders and grows warm in your hands. But then it makes a wheezing sound and a thin trail of smoke sputters from the lamp. Nothing else happens.

    > Examine lamp

    The shiney silver oil Lamp is very old. There are some words engraved on the side of the Lamp.

    > Read words

    "Do not rub."

    Ah. Those were the good old days. . .

    -FL -Plugh

  • Death of IF (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:51AM (#8408355) Homepage
    I read an editorial commentary one a web site (I can't remember where, and I can no longer find it) discussing the demise of adventure games. One reason cited was the use of irrational puzzles. The author went on to describe one such puzzle in detail (I quote from memory, so it's just an approximation):
    You must get into a secret base, but you need an ID Pass. You get a soldier drunk and steal his pass. Next, you find a pen and draw a mustache on his picture on the ID. Then you go out back to the shed, put a piece of masking tape over a small hole in the back of the shed. You then chase a
    black cat into the shed, who then runs out the hole in the back. The masking tape catches some of the cat's hair as it brushes past it. You then take the hair from the tape, find the bottle of spirit gum in the hotel manager's desk, and use the cat hair to make a fake mustache. The problem with the puzzle is that it's illogical. Everybody knows that the first step in impersonating a man without a mustache is to not make a fake mustache. Even after making the leap to the mustache, the method of making it is totally bizarre and non-intuitive. The worst part is that getting into the base is a bottleneck in the game. Unless you can figure out the "stupid cat trick", you can't continue. Bad design like this was a nail in the coffin.
  • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:52AM (#8408376) Homepage
    My favourite text adventure was tabtne.vda and tabtxe.nda in Wing Commander: Privateer. They are, for the unenlightened, commonly referred to as advent.bat and adnext.bat.

    Yes, the people at Origin included a pair of text adventures, written in DOS BATCH FILES, with their game. How cool (and masochistic) is that?

    They were actually pretty fun little games.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky