January Link Assortment

Upcoming events:

Thanks to a burst of focused planning, we have a bunch of forthcoming meetings scheduled for the Oxford/London Meetup. They are

London, February 16. We will be playing a variant of San Tilapian Studies, along with other short card and boardgames focused on storymaking with other people. I’m psyched about this – San Tilapian Studies takes a fair amount of prep to put together and I don’t run it frequently, so if you want to play, this is an unusual chance. We’re using a different setting and sticker set than in the original.

Oxford, April 3. Sunday afternoon pub meet-up; you may bring WIPs or other items to share if you like, though we’re not set up for actual projection or anything like that. Consider this one a really late March meeting, because SXSW/GDC/Easter weekend use up all of my actual March.

London, April 19. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

London, June 14. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

Thanks to Failbetter Games for their on-going willingness to co-host!


If you are planning to be at GDC, here’s some IF-related content for you:

I will be talking in a short format about visualization and design, with many examples from interactive narrative contexts (as well as some from elsewhere).

inkle studios folks will be talking about their tool ink that is used for 80 Days and the Sorcery! series, and which they will be open-sourcing. (!)

Meg Jayanth is speaking twice, once about writing NPCs with agency and once about diversity.


If you’d rather have something you can listen to right now at home: inkle released a podcast about choices, long-term effects of choice, and the player’s position between protagonist and dungeon-master in their work (among other things).

Meanwhile, there’s loads and loads of new Clash of the Type-ins content, where Jenni Polodna and Ryan Veeder bring on a guest to play interactive fiction aloud together; often they play something by the guest and then something by Ryan as well, which mostly works because Ryan has written so many games. Clash of the Type-ins most recently includes play-throughs of Calliope and Winter Storm Draco. But if (like me) you haven’t checked the site in a few months, there’s even more than that.

And of course, I’ve about Adam Cadre’s recent Radio K podcast.


Javy Gwaltney has shut down the Interactive Fiction Fund; residual funds are going to preserving the IF that was written for the fund, and to supporting Sub-Q Magazine.


If you liked my post about Black Closet, you may be interested to know that there is a Gamasutra interview with the author that fills in a lot about its inspirations. (Also, clarifies that it’s definitely based on an Episcopalian school, which is something we were debating in comments…)


The games of the annual French IF competition are now available, and judging continues through February 15. If, like me, you can read some French but aren’t necessarily fluent enough to come up with the right verbs, this French version of the parser IF card may be helpful (though this year for the first time one of these games is in Twine, so that’s also an option for those not up for parser French).

Also, here are my comments on last year’s collection, if you’re curious about past iterations of the event.


Zarf has released a new Glulx interpreter for Mac, Windows, and Linux. This is a step towards making it easier to release stand-alone parser game apps for various PC platforms, and also specifically towards making Hadean Lands available on Steam.


Meg Jayanth’s 2015 GOTY list recommends assorted IF, and includes a bit on the IF Comp game Summit. Meanwhile, veteran IF Comp reviewer Paul O’Brian has thoughts on the ones he played in 2015.


Rock Paper Shotgun has an interview with the inkle team on open world interactive fiction. Also, a review of Sun Dogs, the moddable transhumanist IF I covered previously.


Of possible interest to people who like narrative and procedural generation, PROSECCO is running a code camp in Antwerp April 6-8, focusing on automated storytelling.


Doing some prep work for a session on geography and storytelling, I came across this particularly excellent Pinterest board of fantasy map inspirations. There are some amazing historical maps and diagrams, maps drawn for recent IP, and a few cartography tools and asset packs.

This project also took me back to Dyson’s Dodecahedron. I must’ve mentioned this at some point before, but Dyson Logos serves up loads and loads of unlabeled maps on an attribution-only license (CC-BY). They’re designed with tabletop game campaigns in mind, which means that there are a lot of underground environments – but there are also fortress and city maps of various kinds. Typically the drawing is crisp enough that it would be possible to use as the basis of a dynamic map in Glulx or Twine, or combined with Zorkmid, if one were so inclined.

For instance, this chateau with a small hedge maze could very easily be an IF setting:



It would be kind of awesome to run an IF jam based around choosing one of the attribution-licensed maps from Dyson’s and building a game around it. Not that we’re currently lacking in IF jams and comps, admittedly.


Apropos also of teaching, I have started a Google group for people who want to talk about teaching interactive narrative. Please join us if you have something to add (or if you think spectating would be useful to you — it’s a public list). Members have already shared syllabus information and compared workshop notes, but there’s plenty more to talk about here.


Sam Ashwell has written a massive and hugely useful discussion of tabletop storygames: what they are, what they do, what some classic examples look like.

Related: Microscope Explorer, the expansion ruleset book for the tabletop storygame Microscope, is now available for sale. It includes Microscope Union, which I’ve written about previously, as well as several other variants. There’s also a reddit question and answer thread on the game, for anyone who has further questions.


Over at ZEAL, Brian Crimmins has an article on the history of visual novels and dating sims, focusing particularly on their screen layout conventions.


Nicky Case’s work on simulating systems is pretty cool. It uses an adaptive page (a little reminiscent of some of Bret Victor’s work) to allow the user to make predictions and then explore them. Not only can you play with the systems already included in the page, you can also design your own systems using a simple rule kit.

The page comes with a sweet bibliography of related reading. Recommended.


Here is an overview of a number of New York immersive theater productions — the obvious Sleep No More, but also a bunch of other pieces currently or recently running.


Speaking of information, the British Library has lots and lots of data. And metadata. It has images, it has texts, it has classification information. The Library is now (through midnight BST on Monday 11th April 2016) accepting proposals for projects that make “transformative use” of this data, with winners eligible for residencies and prizes in the £1000-3000 range.


Al Rosenberg writes about queerness and also accessibility for the visually impaired in Choice of Robots (though it rather surprisingly refers to Choice of Robots as a visual novel throughout).


Blue Renga has been covering adventures from the late 1970s; this write-up of Warp (1979, ish) particularly intrigued me because of the game’s unusually structured parser commands:

In any case, there’s some interest in Warp past obscurity and massive size; it’s got some monster ambitions for the parser which includes an attempt to make it “smarter than Zork”. It has: backtracking (letting you type BACKTRACK 4 and retrace your last four rooms, for instance), macros (letting you define a set of actions as one command) and conditionals (“IF SEE THE BEAR THAN LOOK AT IT. GO NORTH”).

If that’s not enough older IF for you, check out this New Yorker article on Mindwheel.


Here’s an article on personality as the UX of text-based bots. Some of it is a bit obvious and some is geared towards things that aren’t relevant to game contexts, but it still has some interesting observations about how people interact with natural language interfaces.


Did you know that fan recipes are a thing? Here is a reconstruction of Sunless Sea’s pomegranate-bergamot curd. (I was originally inspired by Feasts of Tre-mang, which also has a recipe for something of this nature.)


Here is a huge collection of game writing links of various kinds, for interactive fiction tools but also links to advice, exercises, etc.

6 thoughts on “January Link Assortment”

  1. “It would be kind of awesome to run an IF jam based around choosing one of the attribution-licensed maps from Dyson’s and building a game around it.”

    I’d get behind that 100%!

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