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Interactive Fiction Competition Enters Its Third Decade ( 30

An anonymous reader writes: Voting is concluding this week for the 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. All the games are available free online, and on November 15th the contest's organizers will announce the game that's received the highest average ratings. "This year's contestants entered 55 original text adventures – a new record," notes one technology blog, which argues that the annual competition provides a link to the history of both gaming and computers. New game-creating tools have "democratized" the field, and the contest may also ultimately lead game creators to explore even more forms of digital media.
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Interactive Fiction Competition Enters Its Third Decade

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  • Still hard to match the good, well-written and imaginative text games. They play on all sorts of platforms, demand very little resources, and often provide great entertainment and challenge. Some of them are really thought-provoking.

    Also keep in mind that most of them are free (or very inexpensive) and can be produced by a single talented person. The quality of tools has steadily improved (look at Inform 7, for instance). You don't have to be a mega-studio to produce a quality text game.

    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday November 08, 2015 @02:51PM (#50888691) Homepage Journal

      Still hard to match the good, well-written and imaginative text games.

      I think the lack of visual detail is what makes these games good.

      I was surprised that the radio play version of "Hitchhiker's Guide" was so much better than the TV series, and surmised that it was because the radio play left the visuals to the imagination of the listener. I read an analysis of the "Twilight" vampire novels which noted that the novel gives very little detail about the narrator (Bella, in first-person), while other characters are described in detail. That meant that any teen reader could imagine herself as Bella having those experiences - there's no detail that would contradict the reader from making that association.

      (For comparison, consider the Thomas Covenant series, where the main character has leprosy and a defeatist attitude. Admittedly different, but also very hard to identify with.)

      I think the adventure games make good use of that. Instead of giving a complete picture of a house, as might be shown in a modern high-end video game, they have a few words of house description, and the reader is left to fill in the details.

      It also helps if the words can lead the viewer to the conclusion intended by the writer. For example, the text adventure can say "the creepy-looking house" while the video game has to supply an artistic rendition of a house that might or might not look creepy. And if the viewer doesn't understand that the house looks creepy, there's no recourse in the video game.

      H.P. Lovecraft once said that the biggest fear is the fear of the unknown. The underlying reason might be that *anything* is more intense given scant information, because with no contradictory detail your mind is free to fill in the gaps with whatever is most intense.

    • I can't stand Inform 7. I tried it when it first came out. Seemed like a huge breakthrough but sheer level of pointless verbosity really made it inviable for me. For example, the last thing I tried doing was adding an extension. When you include it you have to type out the full name and even "by ". One of the many wastes of time! This was a long time ago when it first came out, I can not speak for it now. Is it any better?
      • The point of Inform 7 is to make writing IF accessible to writers who are not programmers. At it's best, describing the geography, fixtures and objects, it lets the game maker think in a far more literary way about the world she's creating. By contrast constructing a list of interlinked data-structures can exercise the logical brain whilst turning off the creative one.

        If you're more a programmer than a writer, then Inform 6 probably is more comfortable. But hey, Inform 6 didn't go away. It's still there in

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Sunday November 08, 2015 @02:15PM (#50888549)

    So that's what they're calling the campaign Twitter feeds these days...

    • So that's what they're calling the campaign Twitter feeds these days...

      Got another one:

      Q: Do you know what they call IF that is at least slightly fun or entertaining?
      A: A Game


  • The 18th Annual Halloween Ghost Story Contest [] on was just held too and had a winning interactive fiction entry. It's also been accepting horror interactive fiction entries for years.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are multi-user interactive fiction works completely ignored in this contest or can't they enter?

    I know the writing at telnet:// often had me in stitches back in the day, wonder if they're still up.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      The quality of IF in these contests pretty much blows any MUD I've played out of the water. This is really about storytelling, and a MUD has too much of the MMO aspect to effectively tell a story. As an aside, a couple years back I gave top marks to an IF game with the most atrocious spelling and grammar I have ever seen, and bugs, to boot. But the story absolutely grabbed me; just fantastic. Most times, though, the winners are top-notch writers. It's like you're part of a really well-written novel.

      • It's like you're part of a really well-written novel.

        Isn't it more like a short story? I was under the impression that long form IF is too much for the judges to get through.

        • by halivar ( 535827 )

          Yes, you're correct. The limit for IFComp is 2 hours of game-play. It can be longer, but only the first two hours can be played before judging (this is on the honor system; I confess to breaking this rule a couple times for exceptional entries).

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