More from Spring Thing 2017

Looking at a couple more Spring Thing games: this time, it’s Ted Strikes Back and Enlightened Master.

Ted Strikes Back is a sequel to Anssi Räisänen’s Ted Paladin and the Case of the Abandoned House, which I reviewed when it was in the 2011 IF Comp. The conceit is that the protagonist is aware of being the hero of a text adventure, and must struggle with the resulting constraints. In Ted Strikes Back, some of Ted’s verbs have been stolen from him, which leads to exchanges like so:

> open wardrobe
The verb ‘open’ is not in your vocabulary.

Flabbergasted, you stare at the error message above. You certainly do know the verb ‘open’. What has
happened?

The puzzles, in other words, are about how to deal with situations that could only arise in the context of a text adventure.

This is definitely a piece aimed at parser IF fans who’ve been around since the rec.arts.int-fiction days. It responds to XYZZY; it features an old-fashioned maze with a trick solution; it jokes about parser game surrealism in a way that’s likely to make the most sense if you played For a Change (Dan Schmidt, 1999), So Far (Andrew Plotkin, 1996), or some of the other lesser-known works that borrowed the same ideas. I also ran into easter egg references to Christminster (Gareth Rees, 1995) and The Meteor, The Stone, and A Long Glass of Sherbet (Graham Nelson, 1996), and I suspect there’s probably more of that kind of reference to be found.

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Spring Thing 2017

Spring Thing 2017 is now launched, with fifteen Main Festival entries and seven Back Garden items, including Twine, ink, Inform, Quest, Texture, ALAN, and Squiffy works. I haven’t been through nearly all of them yet, of course, but here are thoughts on two: Bobby and Bonnie and Niney.

Bobby and Bonnie is a parser IF game with a couple of rabbit protagonists, illustrated with map and compass to help you follow along:

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 2.00.14 PM.png

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Small Plotting Trick for Choice-of Work

Choice of Games pieces also very often involve multiple romantic or career options; and in my WIP, I found that there was kind of a risk of making all the romances be variants of “…and then you ride into the sunset with person X.” From a storytelling point of view, though, I don’t find that very satisfying, because it makes those characters interchangeable and makes it harder for them to have distinctive arcs in the body of the text.

Recently I tried an exercise that helped with this. It is really pretty trivial but I shared it with a few people who found it useful, so now I will share it more widely. The exercise:

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End of March Link Assortment

Events and deadlines:

The Queerness and Games conference is this weekend, March 31st-April 2nd, at the University of Southern California. Games in the curated arcade include Astrid Dalmady’s Cactus Blue Motel and Dietrich “Squinky” Squinkifer’s Dominique Pamplemousse & Dominique Pamplemousse in: “Combinatorial Explosion!” You can register here.

San Francisco’s IF Meetup will be held on April 1st.

The deadline to submit games to Spring Thing is April 3rd, and games will be available to play on April 6th.

The Oxford/London IF Meetup is April 5th, but is currently full with a waiting list.

Boston’s PR-IF meetup will be held April 10th.

On the 13th April, the National Videogame Arcade’s text writing group Hello Words will be playing and reviewing Elizabeth’s ink game, Concordia. This will be followed by working on our own projects, or having a more general writing discussion as preferred. This session will be upstairs from the NVA’s Toast Bar in the Clubroom, from 6:30pm. (Enter via the Toast Bar). Free to attend, RSVP via Eventbrite.

Games:

Odyssey Jam has a handful of text-based games; you can find them on the jam page and I’ve written them up here.

Jason Dyer is running a play-by-post of Spelunker (1979), which you can read about here and play here.

Thimbleweed Park, a new Ron Gilbert point-and-click adventure game, has been released, which might be adjacent enough to interactive fiction to interest some readers.

Links and reading:

My latest IF Only column for Rock Paper Shotgun talks about Le Réprobateur, a French-language piece of multimedia IF.

This in-depth interview of Abigail Corfman by Ken Gagne digs into Corfman’s process in making Open Sorcery.

Somewhere is a Lifeline-like game for iOS and Android; it’s currently being developed in French, and the developers are updating their progress here at intfiction.

A writeup of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, agency, and interactive entertainment.

All This Time ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvVNxqosZ7s ), a Jonathan Coulton song whose video is the playthrough of an imagined work of parser IF.

https://medium.com/@leonnicholls/interactive-fiction-actions-part-1-ca022b4d088d — guide to setting up a parser IF game with Google voice interaction.

Veteran IF and SFF author Yoon Ha Lee did an AMA at r/Fantasy.

Odyssey Jam

 

The Odyssey Jam was an itch.io jam running through March 26 for works based on The Odyssey, drawing ten games, predominantly interactive fiction and visual novel entries. Here are some thoughts on the entries:

islands & witches (Inform) has the player wander a maze of evocative locations from the Odyssey, occasionally collecting items, but mostly drifting from place to place. As the title islands & witches somewhat implies, there’s a focus also on the female characters of the story, many of whom have at least a few lines of dialogue when you encounter them in their various homes.

>s
Underworld
The air smells of lilies and blood. It is always just past sunset. There is a three-headed dog, spotted like a hyena, lying nearby. A iron double axe-head with dried blood on its blade is sticking out of the rocky ground.
Persephone is still here. All men must come to the realm of the dead one day, but you had hoped to find your way home first, even perhaps to know your name would live glorious beyond you. “How lovely to see you.” Persephone announces, as if to her court. You feel welcomed, perhaps excessively.

 

Although I did eventually reach Ithaka, I never figured out how to make Penelope pay attention to me, or work out what I should do with much of the game’s inventory, including a beehive and a rosemary branch. (I did make a makeshift torch, but it didn’t seem to matter that much?) So I wasn’t able to finish the game, and I’m not sure if there is a conclusion, or if I left some puzzles unfinished.

For writing and feel, though, this was one of my favorite submissions, and I could see it being expanded and polished if the authors are so inclined. It reminded me a little of Victor Ojuel’s Pilgrimage: large areas contained in a single room description, and vast sea-spanning voyages undertaken in a single move.

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