Mid-October Link Assortment

Events

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

October 18, at 2-4 PM Eastern time, Zack Whalen is running an online workshop on creating your own generative novel, in preparation for NaNoGenMo month.

October 22 is usually the deadline for submitting spooky interactive fiction to the yearly Saugus.net Halloween contest. This contest accepts both interactive and non-interactive short fiction, and has been running continuously since 1998. It doesn’t always get IF entries, but can be a fun place to send something if you’ve got a scary story in mind.

October 24, the Oxford/London IF Meetup will be playing IF Comp games together online.

Even if you don’t want to join us there, IF Comp games are currently available to play and judge. Anyone can participate in judging — so if you want to be part of that, check out the website for instructions. The judging period runs through November 15.

November 6 is the next meetup of the San Francisco Bay Area IF Group.

Stuart Lloyd is revitalising the tradition of the Windhammer Prize for gamebooks, with the new Lindenbaum gamebook competition. The submission window opens December 1.

Continue reading “Mid-October Link Assortment”

Mailbag: Macro to Micro Ideas

Close-up image of a car's gear shift

Today’s question, gathered from Twitter a little while back, is this:

How do you go from the macro to the micro, i.e. from a big, broad idea for a game to the concrete instantiation of it?

A long time ago I wrote Idea to Implementation, a discussion of how to get from implementation to completed project based on a lot of amateur experience but no experience working in a studio. If I were writing this advice now, it would have a lot more to say about studio-based practices: pre-production, the stage in which you try to eliminate unknowns about your project; vertical slices, in which you build a portion of your game at full quality. On our current project at Failbetter, Mask of the Rose, our producer Stuart Young recently wrote about what pre-production means on our project.

I mentioned “Idea to Implementation” to the questioner, who replied:

I was also thinking on a more micro level: tips for coming up with specific story beats, characters, choices, puzzles, items, descriptions. Maybe the answer is just “brainstorm a lot”, or else “collaborate with someone who’s good at brainstorming”.

For me, this is about three things:

  1. Verifying that big, broad idea
  2. Coming up with possible smaller elements, using brainstorming and research
  3. Assembling the ideas into a structure, verifying their quality, and identifying what’s missing
Continue reading “Mailbag: Macro to Micro Ideas”

End of September Link Assortment

Events

Tomorrow, October 1, IF Comp games will be available to play and judge. Anyone can participate in judging — so if you want to be part of that, check out the website for instructions. The judging period runs through November 15.

October 2 is the next meetup of the San Francisco Bay Area IF Group.

October 5 is the deadline to submit talk proposals to the GDC AI Summit in 2022. Building a talk proposal takes a little time, so if you’d like to present something there, do give yourself enough time to read through what’s required and then pull together documentation.

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

Also October 17, the Seattle IF Meetup will gather to play through some IF Comp games.

October 22 is usually the deadline for submitting spooky interactive fiction to the yearly Saugus.net Halloween contest. This contest accepts both interactive and non-interactive short fiction, and has been running continuously since 1998. It doesn’t always get IF entries, but can be a fun place to send something if you’ve got a scary story in mind.

October 24, the Oxford/London IF Meetup will be playing IF Comp games together online.

Continue reading “End of September Link Assortment”

Mid-September Link Assortment

Events

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.

September 28 is the deadline to submit games to IF Comp; authors should already have signed up for this, however, so if you haven’t done so, you cannot enter now. (If you’ve missed the deadline and are sad about it, Spring Thing offers an alternate comp opportunity each year, so you may want to keep an eye out for the next time that opens for entries.)

IF Comp is also still accepting prize submissions and contributions to the Colossal Fund, which helps support authors and the IF Technology Foundation.

October 2 is the next meetup of the San Francisco Bay Area IF Group.

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

Also October 17, the Seattle IF Meetup will gather to play through some IF Comp games.

October 24, the London IF Meetup will do our IF Comp playthrough session.

Talks, Podcasts, and Articles

Jimmy Maher’s history of games has reached 1995, with an article on some of the grand IF written when the post-commercial amateur IF community was coming into its own. People curious about the history of IF may enjoy the read; newer fans of text adventures may also find a few recommendations for older gems they haven’t yet played.

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Hannah Nicklin has a marvellous collection of craft articles and workshop guidelines for improving your interactive writing skills, including a great set of instructions for improving your ear for dialogue.

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Logo with the words Game Arts Curators Kit

Over the years, interactive fiction and other narrative games have been shown in a huge range of public contexts, including conference expo booths and in museums.

The Game Arts Curators Kit is a new handbook on how to approach game curation and display, bringing together input from more than two dozen people with experience in that area, and currently available in wiki form. It covers everything from curatorial selection to setting up a venue to how to communicate with the game creators about the results of the exhibition if they weren’t able to be there in person.

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Readers interested in linguistics and natural language processing might enjoy this Lingthusiasm episode about a project to build machine learning models of African languages that aren’t currently well represented in machine translation solutions.

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Screenshot of Pestis Apotheca by Yanko Oliveira. An NPC is describing the symptoms of their illness. The player has selected one symptom, causing it to be highlighted.
Conversation in Pestis Apotheca features a mechanic for listening, not just for speaking

Yanko Oliveira has written about Pestis Apotheca, a procjam game where you’re blending generated ingredients to cure the plague symptoms of generated patients.

One of several neat things the game does is feature a conversation system where you need to highlight the elements of a patient’s illness you’re planning to try to cure:

…I imagine it might be a bit like listening to a bug report: you want as much information as you can get, and you kind of automatically filter things out that you know are unrelated. This was easily represented by the mechanic of clicking certain words to highlight symptoms: unless you “actively listen” to the patient, you won’t uncover what they’re feeling.

Pestis Apotheca design discussion

Releases

A screenshot with the words Raccoon. Wrestle. Bribe.
Ord. screenshot with two options for interacting with a raccoon

Seen via John Walker (@botherer) and his review, Mujo Games’ Ord. is an IF platform (containing multiple games) in which all descriptions and actions are limited to a single word.

Ord. has been around for a few years, and now the creators have released the toolkit for other authors who want to work with the system: you can create new Ord content using Google spreadsheets.

Ord’s guide for new authors makes clear that this a basic storylet system rather than a tiny-sized Twine variant: by default, Ord is randomly picking its next events from a pool of possibilities, rather than hard-linking to followup consequences. In fact, that guide offers a pretty good explanation of some real basics of storylet design: how to separate storylets into pools or groupings; how to make new storylets available or unavailable; how to create loops or hard links to create more structured areas within the storylet slurry.

Opportunities

Six to Start’s New Adventures are audio stories players experience while they run, jog, or walk. Players hear a short scenes of audio (1–3 minutes long) interspersed with songs from the music player on their phone. Each episode of a New Adventure features 6–8 scenes, and New Adventures can be standalone episodes (e.g. “The 13th Runner”) or multi-episode arcs (e.g. “Nellie Bly”).

Six to Start is currently accepting pitches to write audio pieces — not about zombies! — for inclusion in their New Adventures series. They pay for each stage of script development, and have a mentoring program for writers who have never previously written for pay. The pitching deadline is September 26.

Crowdfunding

Cover art for the Exquisite Corpse in Maggots' Keep

The Exquisite Corpse in Maggots’ Keep is a gamebook project in which the authorship of the project changes every time the player makes a choice.

Somewhat alarmingly, the reward at the $5K tier is your own actual coffin, which raises a lot of question about coffin sourcing and storage.

But for those who are (very reasonably) more interested in having a paperback or hardback book sans funeral furnishings, there are a bunch of handy tiers for that as well.

Remember August, meanwhile, is a narrative game played by email or physical mail, about connecting with an old friend who has become unmoored in time.

Mailbag: Finding Inspiration in Non-Obvious Subject Matter

Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, as painted by Elisabetta Sirani

I used to publish questions that people have asked me either by email or on Twitter.

That went on a hiatus for a while; to kick it off again, I asked Twitter folks what they’d be most interested in seeing me write about. Here was one of the questions:

Where [do] you look for or find good inspirations, lessons and ideas for IF that come from as far from IF as possible absolutely no IF, no games, better if no pop culture, no media, no art).

Or, if I may put it better: how to enrich interactive fiction with inspirations, ideas and techniques originating in other fields, particularly in the most unrelated.

I asked for some clarification, which led to:

For me, perhaps the best would be: “this is how other people have found some unexpected new things to bring into IF, in case it might spark your imagination”.

This restatement makes the question much easier. There are lots of IF pieces inspired by events, places, crafts and activities, emotional experiences, or academic fields outside of interactive fiction — and many author essays about those processes.

The rest of this post collects links and excerpts on what authors found inspiring — and what aspects of their games were affected by the inspiration. A search for post-mortems on the intfiction forum will yield a very rich supply of other author essays, for anyone who’d like to explore beyond this collection.

Continue reading “Mailbag: Finding Inspiration in Non-Obvious Subject Matter”

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.

Continue reading “End of August Link Assortment”