End of August Link Assortment

Events

The People’s Republic of IF, the Cambridge MA-based IF group, meets today, August 31, at 6:30 PM Eastern online.

September 1 is the deadline to register as an author for IF Comp, and the games themselves will be due September 28. This year, unusually, there is a move so that authors participating in the competition may also act as judges: this rules change may not be permanent, but it’s an experiment this year to help accommodate the growing number of authors and make sure games are getting enough voters.

Those entering IF Comp may also be interested in this best-practices discussion of how to write a walkthrough for the competition.

And if you’ve got a fun prize that you’d like to contribute to authors, you can do that at the prize page. Good prize contributions can be all kinds of things: food, games, books, donations of art or other creative services, and modern or retro gaming souvenirs have all been popular prizes in the past.

September 4, the SF Bay IF Meetup has its next meeting.

September 10, Phoebe Barton is teaching a Clarion West class on interactive fiction for people interested in finding their way into the genre for the first time.

September 12 is the next meetup of the Seattle IF Meetup, with a talk on Ink and Unity.

September 18-19, Emperatriz Ung is running a session for the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop called Prototyping Memory, A Game Design Approach To Nonfiction, about using Inform and IF techniques to reimagine setting, perspective, and structure.

The Oxford/London IF Meetup is currently running a jam for pieces written for Seltani, Andrew Plotkin’s multiplayer hypertext platform. We’ll meet and play through the submitted games on September 19.

If you’d like to contribute a game, you only need to build it on the Seltani system and then leave a comment on the Meetup page to indicate that it’s been submitted for play. And if we don’t get a lot of entries (people are busy and it’s hard to tell in advance!) we’ll still meet and play through some of the existing games on the Seltani system. You’re more than welcome to come and play with us even if you don’t have time or inclination to write anything.

September 23-27 is the Game Devs of Color Expo, which is online this year — check out the awesome lineup of speakers here.

Roguelike Celebration runs online October 16-17, and is often a great place to pick up some talks on procedural generation of various kinds.

Releases

Screenshot of Gruescript's code
Sample Gruescript code for writing the classic Cloak of Darkness scenario

Robin Johnson has released Gruescript, a tool for making point-and-click text adventure games. The concept is familiar from a bunch of Robin’s past work, including IF Comp-winning Detectiveland: the player is offered a model world with items they can manipulate, much as in a standard parser text adventure, but the system explicitly presents all the verbs the player can use at any given moment:

Screenshot of Gruescript's Cloak of Darkness example
Gruescript playing Cloak of Darkness

The included conversation system also supports topic-based conversation:

Screenshot of Gruescript in which the player can click topics to ask an NPC about
Gruescript’s conversation example

The system also comes with a full-sized sample game, The Party Line, whose source code can be loaded up for inspection when you start a new Gruescript project. The Party Line has a lot of familiar text adventure features: wandering NPCs with different associated actions, treasures and a place to deposit them to change the score, and randomised atmospheric messages.

And if you’d like to discuss the tool with other users or give feedback on the design, there’s an active thread on the intfiction.org forum.

There’s a new Choice of Games release, The Play’s the Thing, by Jo Graham and Amy Griswold:

Become the official playwright at the Odeon, the most prestigious theater in Medaris. Here, high society gathers to gossip, frolic, and flirt. Dazzling special effects, enhanced by real magical enchantments, keep the audience in their seats. The plays you write have the power to manipulate public opinion, changing the course of history.

But as you’re waiting for your first opening night, rumors begin flying. Deadly, shadowy creatures are stalking the city’s streets. Mysterious accidents threaten your productions. It’s a curse, people whisper—but only where the city’s harsh ruler, the Raven, can’t hear them. And to discover the roots of the curse, you’ll have to dig deep into secrets that the city’s nobles would prefer to stay safely buried.

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Screenshot of a multiplayer Zork implementation in which we can see the actions taken by another player character, presented as 'emshort decides to read leaflet' and 'emshort decides to turn off lantern'
Multiplayer Zork in progress. That emshort character is about to get us both eaten by a Grue.

Meanwhile, Ryan C Gordon has made a multiplayer version of Zork that players can join via telnet. That means you can log in, start up a new Zork instance, and share the access code with some friends. Once you’re all inside, you and your friends can wander around the Zork universe together.

There are a number of peculiarities one would probably choose to avoid if designing multiplayer parser IF from scratch (or, indeed, that a lot of MUDs did avoid). The system doesn’t recognise the names of your fellow players, so you can’t use any verbs on them. There’s no rule against just taking something from another player’s inventory, which encourages all participants to play the role of additional Suspicious-Looking Individuals. Descriptions of the other player’s actions are rudimentary and don’t always show you how the world state has updated — and there’s a lag where, if the other player changes the lit/unlit status of a room, you don’t see the results of that for a turn or two.

But as a retrofit of a game that was never designed to be played this way, it’s pretty impressive. And because all your actions are reported verbatim to the other player whether the parser understands them or not, there’s room for all your frustrated failed puzzle attempts to at least amuse another human.

(If ‘telnet’ sounds cryptic, but you have a Mac or Linux system, you can reach it via a command line and terminal window; for Windows there are clients you can download. The attached article gives instructions.)

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This is not a new release at all, but I’ve put The Annals of the Parrigues up on itch for easier discovery/download.

Articles, Podcasts and Talks

Screenshot of Dream Foundry video, showing the faces of the four participants
Dream Foundry panel on games and prose writing

Earlier this year, Stephen Granade, Erin Roberts, Monte Lin, and Aaron A. Reed talked about games writing and prose writing as a session for Dream Foundry, and that conversation is now available on YouTube.

The session title doesn’t indicate this, but they also talk some about what’s involved in writing for tabletop RPGs:

Something I’ve had to learn when I’m doing tabletop writing is not to imply things off the page… like in a short story you might just think, ‘I’ll make this world seem richer by alluding something that you’ll never see on the page that is exciting.’

But they came back the first time I did that [for a TTRPG] and they said, ‘No, you can’t do that. People are going to be looking in the book: where is that thing you just alluded to? What are its stats?’

Erin Roberts on writing for TTRPGs

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50 Years of Text Games has now reached 2001 , with a discussion of the massive ARG The Beast, and 2002, with Screen, a project drawing on the traditions of literary hypertext but projecting its words in 3D space in the CAVE installation.

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The Short Game recently covered Griftlands, one of my favourite recently released games.

And speaking of The Short Game, their contributor Laura Nash also appeared on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books recently to talk about romance games and interactive fiction.

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Finally, the Distillations podcast spoke with Jeremiah McCall about using video games to teach history.

Fundraising

Every year, the IF Technology Foundation runs a fundraiser for the Colossal Fund.

This money provides prizes to authors who participate in IF Comp (often in the hundreds of dollars for the top placers — not the kind of money that pays a realistic wage for the work that goes into a comp-winning game, but something that may nonetheless be a helpful boost on a restricted budget).

A portion of the funds also go to supporting the other activities of the foundation, which include maintaining the IF Archive and IFDB, supporting Twine development, putting together educational materials related to IF, running the NarraScope conference, and various other maintenance and development tasks. IFTF also created and released a report with recommendations towards making IF tools and games more accessible.

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