December 3 is the Bay Area IF Meetup.
December 14, the People’s Republic of IF meets at MIT to look at some of the remaining IF Comp winners and discuss future project plans.
December 30 is the Scouring of Scotia, a live-via-Twitter shared gamebook/IF experience.
The Oxford/London IF Meetup takes a holiday in December.
Quite a lot of good stuff has come out this month, even not counting the end of IF Comp and the ECTOCOMP games I reviewed previously.
Sub-Q brings us a new story from Hannah Powell-Smith, a Raconteur piece called Teeth and Ice. It’s the story of a selkie trying to retrieve her skin; I lost several times, but it is possible to succeed, if you manage your resources right.
Xalavier Nelson Jr. (author of the comp game SCREW YOU, BEAR DAD) has a new piece out called Mazurka – A Ghost in Italy, now available on itchi.io for $0.49. It is a short, reflective story about prejudice, race, mental health, and fitting in vs. not; like some of Nelson’s other work, it uses link clicks very extensively to pace reading, and I found that more than usually effective in this particular work.
Ibis, Fly is a poetic new piece from Mary Hamilton, about being a bird who befriends other birds. Clicking the text often cycles between human and bird perspectives, turning familiar words into less recognizable descriptions of the way a bird might perceive these items. (See also Hamilton’s previous work, Detritus.)
Laura Michet’s Brigand Story is a horror piece about a tale told and retold and retold around the campfire, and what goes wrong with the telling and the tale. The words break down, repeat, stumble on themselves and change. It’s definitely its own thing, but might appeal also to people who enjoy Michael Lutz‘s horror.
Burnt Matches from Pippin Barr is concrete poetry…
…in which each screen is a textual space to be traversed. Many of the interactions are subtly witty: long walks that head off the edge of the screen, words that ripple as your cursor passes over them. The whole doesn’t really yield to simple literal explanation (or it doesn’t for me), but it describes a journey that feels at least tonally consistent. There are echoes out of The Waste Land, lilacs and tarot cards and full fathom deep. But then also flickering screens of chess moves and alphabets I don’t read, which often must be manipulated (without understanding) in order to open the transition to the next screen: a content-free form of hacking that reminds me of 90s cyberpunk novels. And then just cold, frost and chill rooms and water, everything guttering until the world-text disintegrates into a field of simulated Twine errors. (Like, but also completely unlike, B Minus Seven’s use of Twine errors in Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes.)
Then also, new from Porpentine, Miss Clemory and the Wall of Fire:
Its sole IFDB review at the moment describes it as good writing draped over not much story, but I disagree with that assessment. Yes, there’s a lot of metaphorical language in this piece, but the choice of metaphorical content is itself extremely revealing: the protagonist is very self-conscious about being a narrator, and the narration tells you quite a bit about who she is as a person. Meanwhile, the core of the story is about the distance between siblings, and the relationship between creative people, and the way we use language to manage and control and keep someone away. It has a short-story-shaped plot rather than a big bold adventure plot, but that suits this particular work.
At AdventureX I got a chance to try Antioch: Scarlet Bay, which is a two-player choice-based interactive fiction where you and the other protagonist are trying to solve a murder. A lot of the interaction is about how your relationship develops with the other main character, though you’re also trying to push the investigation forward by noticing clues. It’s not in full release yet, and I didn’t get to play all the way through to the end, but I found it intriguing and I continue to wonder about the possibilities for minorly multiplayer IF, so I’m looking forward to this coming out.
Reviews and Articles
IF Comp ended! You can visit the complete results, but the top three placers were Detectiveland by Robin Johnson; Color the Truth by Brian Rushton; and Cactus Blue Motel by Astrid Dalmady.
The Short Game podcast covers the games that won IF Comp and offers some impressions of the competition as a whole.
A number of authors have also shared postmortems of their work, including
- Hill Ridge, Lost and Found
- Sigil Reader (Field)
- Color the Truth
- Game of Worlds
- Rite of Passage
- Cactus Blue Motel
- Night House
- The Queen’s Menagerie / Mirror and Queen
Elsewhere, I wrote about Steph Cherrywell’s work for Rock Paper Shotgun.
Procedural Generation Things
November was the month for PROCJAM and NaNoGenMo, so lots of interesting generation going on.
Chris Martens offers an assessment of story generators that might be suitable for NaNoGenMo (constructing a 50K-word novel). There’s less in that space than one might hope, but the overview document is quite interesting if you’re into that sort of thing.
Lea Albaugh ran a recurrent neural network on a bunch of Inform 7 code, producing some entertaining new procedurally generated stuff, like so:
The description of the player is "It is stone." The printed name is "smoke" as the probably property. The secretary is a fluid container.
Rogue Process talks about Tanya Short’s procedural work in Moon Hunters:
Each time you play Moon Hunters you’re not playing the same game in a similar place as different people – you’re playing the exact same events in the exact same place as the exact same people. Every playthrough of Moon Hunters is about the same people, the same places, and the same events. What changes is the person telling it – each playthrough is the mythology being handed down to a new generation, and its variations and differences are the misremembering, embellishment, confusion and flourishes of a new storyteller.
And Failbetter Games has been blogging about their plans for Sunless Skies, the forthcoming sequel to Sunless Sea, with some followup commentary then also appearing on Rock Paper Shotgun.