October Link Assortment

Upcoming meetings and events:

Wordplay in Toronto is November 7. There will be talks about text-based games, there will be demos of other games, there will be assorted IF folks. I am speaking. Perhaps I will see you there.

Also November 7, London: ProcJam launches with a series of free talks about procedurally generating things. I obviously cannot be there because I will be in Toronto instead, but I know a number of Oxford/London IF Meetup folks are planning to attend.

November 11 is the regularly scheduled Boston IF meetup. I will be there also.

November 29, Oxford: WIP Sharing meetup. If you have a piece for which you’d like feedback, this is a great place to show up and share what you have.

December 12-13, London: AdventureX is a free two-day conference about adventure games, focusing primarily but not exclusively on graphical adventures. Again, there will be some text game people there (probably including me).


What to play for Halloween?

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 11.14.04 AM

Matthew Ritter’s graveyard-exploration piece Boon Hill is coming to Steam today, so if you’d like to celebrate Halloween by wandering around looking at some epitaphs, here’s your opportunity.

If bureaucracy and money issues spook you more than graves, you may enjoy Harry Giles’ ritual for grant-seekers, a liturgy about the process of applying for art support grants. If this sounds incomprehensible: it’s really not. Like a lot of Harry’s game poetry, it encapsulates its critiques of a system into rules and actions.

Or perhaps you’ll like Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz’s visual novel We Know the Devil. It’s about three teenagers who struggle to be their best selves, and not to leave one another behind, at a camp where possession is a standard occurrence. Also, something of a reflection on community in its more destructive aspects. (Here’s Isz Janeway’s review.)

More in the mood to make legal contracts with demons? Max Gladstone has a new Choice of Games game out in his Deathless series, called Deathless: The City’s Thirst. He talks about it — and the challenges of writing a second work in this format — over here.

The Ritual (Edward Turner) is a comedy Lovecraftian piece where you need to replay to see all the endings. It’s rather sweet, assuming you’re not too bothered by exploding your acolytes and raining shattered flesh over the land. A quick and entertaining play.

I can also recommend any of the Comp games I’ve reviewed in the last week or so, especially Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! if you want goofy 1950s aliens, Arcane Intern (Unpaid) if you want a little witchcraft, Darkiss for an old-school vampire.

Or, again, you might like Tailypo by Chandler Groover, published this month on Sub-Q: it’s a short horror piece. No branching, but a good example of what dynamic fiction can do. (I have a horrible sneaking feeling that I’m actually starting to quite like horror genre IF, even if I’m not really a fan of it in books or movies. And as long as there aren’t any zombies in sight.)

And there’s Anna Anthropy’s Witches and Wardrobes, run earlier in the month: I’m planning to write about this one a little more later. It’s more personal and less suspenseful than Tailypo but unsurprisingly also excellent.


IF Comp is still running! If you want to get in on the action and vote on some games, you have a couple more weeks to do so. In addition to all the reviews here and at ifwiki, you might enjoy The Short Game’s podcast coverage of the competition.


Read Only Memories is a point-and-click adventure game with a strong proportion of dialogue and story interaction — I saw an early version of it when it was entered in the IGF. It’s now available, and IndieGames has a review.


Adventure game studio Wadjet Eye has announced their next game, a post-apocalyptic piece called Shardlight. It looks gloomy, but, you know, in an attractive way.


MathBrush has put together a good list of IF games that were well-regarded at one time but don’t get as much attention these days as they might. The list skews heavily towards parser work, but it includes a few choice pieces as well.


Adam Cadre’s podcast Radio 4 covered three parser IF games from 2003: Risorgimento Represso, Scavenger, and To Hell in a Hamper. This one covers some interesting material about IF implementation depth — and the difference for writing for books, screenplays, and IF — along with some thoughts about implied politics.


Jon Ingold and Joseph Humphrey have a postmortem for 80 Days up on Gamasutra.


A couple of years ago, Laura Michet wrote a Twine game called Swan Hill, and a blog post about how she uses the replace macro in that game. I missed out hearing about those at the time, but Forest Ambassador mentioned them this month, so I had a chance to play. Swan Hill is a good piece of work, and if you’re interested in Twine conventions and hypertext design, the post is also worth a look.


Robert Yang writes really interestingly about curating the concept of your game, not just creating the game itself: about how games are partly about the cultural impression they make, and people often talk about games they haven’t played. (No one has time to play everything. I don’t have time to play everything. This month has been a play-everything-no-matter-what kind of month for me and I still totally failed on that mission.)

What he has to say about knowing the hook of your game also ties back well to this Carolyn VanEseltine article about why refining your elevator pitch is an important part of the design process. I’ve linked it before but I hereby link it again because it’s really useful and people should read it.

Finally, if you dig the idea of IF that exists purely in conception and not in reality, may I recommend Sam Kabo Ashwell’s posts on the best games of Tlon.


Also from Robert, a detailed breakdown of what he reads in The Beginner’s Guide, looking (among other things) at what can be inferred from the subtle details of level design. I love this kind of analysis, and it’s so far from being within my own competence it’s not even funny. And as is common with TBG discussions, it also gets into some personal points as well.


Speaking of design, Juhana Leinonen has written a series of Back to the Future-themed articles about IF design. I particularly valued the fourth installment, where he talks about plot structures for parser IF, addressing the common misperception that an IF map is the same thing as its plot structure. Often the plot structure is better represented by a puzzle chart: if you zoom way out on my puzzle chart for Counterfeit Monkey, it starts to look like a friendly gauntlet, or even basically linear. And the same thing would be true for a large number of contemporary video games; they just are not doing that much branching.


Kevin Savetz interviewed Dan Horn about the Infocom days on an Atari-related podcast.


Here’s a cool article by Jordan Webber about alternative game festivals in the UK and EU, including Feral Vector and Ludolunch, but also other neat things.


To extend what I said about events, above: Procjam is a jam for procedurally generated things — games and parts of games and funky net art — and it’s running this year from the 7th to the 15th of November. This is a great opportunity to, say, try out some procedural text generation, if that’s a thing that interests you — but that’s not the only option, and any kind of procedural IF would also be appropriate. The website provides a free art pack that any participant can use if they wish, as well as a bunch of links to resources.

Whether or not you have the time and inclination to participate in that, I also recommend this post by Mike Cook about the aesthetics of procedurally generated games and environments, and about the reasons for running ProcJam.

If ProcJam doesn’t sound long enough or textually-oriented enough for you, there’s also NaNoGenMo, a novel-generating month that runs throughout November. The site for 2015 is already filling up with links to resources. You could probably even get subversive and do something for both ProcJam and NaNoGenMo. Or use resources from one for the other.


Meanwhile, Unflattened looks like Understanding Comics but with more Deleuze.


Oubliette Escape Rooms is Kickstarting a London-based room escape experience. The people working on it have experience with Punchdrunk set design, which is a huge plus in my view; and the room is based on an existing successful project in Portland.

One thought on “October Link Assortment”

  1. Thank you for linking to Sam’s Tlön review posts. They’re one of my favourite parts of his blog, which is saying a lot.

    Gonna have to check out “Tailypo”: I think I know the folk tale it’s based on, and Chandler Groover is a good writer.

    As usual, thank you very much for a great round-up of interesting resources and works.

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