End of July Link Assortment

Events

The competition for games with a classic text parser, ParserComp, is just winding up now, so the results should be visible either now or in the very near future. And if you haven’t had a chance to play yet, you may enjoy checking out the range of games here.

August 2-6 is the Foundations of Digital Games conference, which is happening entirely online.

August 7 is the next SF Bay interactive fiction meetup.

August 22, the Seattle/Tacoma IF group meets from 2 PM to 4 PM PDT via Discord. It features Astrid Dalmady as the special guest, presenting some of her past work including Tangeroa Deep.

Programming Languages and Interactive Entertainment is a 2-day workshop running alongside the AIIDE conference. Jon Ingold will be giving an invited talk about ink.

Paper submissions are due by August 12, and the event itself will be October 11-12. This workshop also has a “conversation starters” track, where people are encouraged to submit materials to spur discussion groups. Demos of languages are also welcome. If you’re working on a domain-specific language for interactive fiction development, this might be a place to share what you’re working on.

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.

Kickstarter

A Compendium of Lesser Known Cryptids is a non-interactive anthology but with some gamelike aspects, bringing together work by several game and interactive fiction writers:

A 50-75 page illustrated anthology of unique or “off-brand” cryptids compiled by the Seldom Valley Cryptid Society (SVCS). The SVCS documents its sightings with a variety of articles, diagrams, interviews, and photographs courtesy of more than ten independent researchers and consultants as well as a variety of field artists.  Compiled like a research file, the compendium is a valuable source for any cryptozoologist looking for something new.

Talks, Articles, Books

A bunch of talks from the Everything Procedural conference are now available online, including talks on procedural character and prop generation; Oskar Stålberg on Townscaper, a generative toy using the wave function collapse algorithm; and procgen storytelling for Wildermyth.

Aaron Reed’s ongoing series 50 Years of Text Games has now reached 1998, and covers Photopia.

Those who liked my GDC talk “Sigmoids for Storytellers” — or those who didn’t see it but just thought it sounded interesting — might also be interested in Bruno Dias’ article A Bestiary of Functions for Systems Designers.

Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives by Anastasia Salter and Stuart Moulthrop is an approach to Twine as a tool and various Twine games in particular. Its introduction speaks of teaching Twine as part of an undergraduate course in interactive narrative, and documents, in a quite accessible form, the experience of teaching that class specifically during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and the ways that student projects reacted to the moment.

The chapters alternate between theoretical and practical discussions (with chapter headings marked T and P for clarity): the book is designed to help people interested in writing their first Twine story/game, but also to provide some historical background on the development of the tool and the surrounding communities, and to offer readings of both text and code from well-known Twine works.

The book is available as a free epub download.

The Uncanny Deck: Co-authoring with GPT-2

Artbreeder landscape, developed as an image of Booknesford, from Annals of the Parrigues. Angry citizens threw the last of the Parrigues from the cliff in order to execute her.

Many years ago, I started writing a fantasy story. In the story, there was a culturally important game you could play with friends, which was usually mostly a bit like poker.

The thing was, every once in a while you would draw some totally weird extra card that had never been in the pack before. The Steward of Hearts. The King of Arrows. Both suits and ranks were open to change.

In the story, this was the work of prophetic spirits.

I never finished writing the story because I was really less interested in the plot than I was in the deck itself — the idea of a set of symbols that was mostly known and constrained and human-made, but had an occasional dose of the uncanny.

To me, that dose of the uncanny is also part of the appeal of working with AI — the way it can, at its best, introduce elements that feel both significant and unexpected.

Over the past year or so, I’ve worked on and off on making a text generator that describes fortune-telling cards; where the deck has its own definite imagery and set of meanings; where the generator usually stays approximately on form; but where you sometimes find a card you would not expect at all.

The rest of the article goes a little bit into what I’ve done, what it produces, and why I find this an interesting way to write with a machine.

If you’d like your own experimental output from it: through this weekend (until early July 19), I’m supporting this fundraiser by generating tarot card readings or new Parrigues-style towns with this generator. If you’d like your own, donate any amount, then ping to let me know what you’d like. (More about that offer on Twitter.)

Now, the article:

Continue reading “The Uncanny Deck: Co-authoring with GPT-2”

Mid-July Link Assortment

Thanks

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that over the last year and a half, a lot of these posts have been signed “Mort Short” rather than “Emily.” This is because, for a lot of the pandemic, I haven’t had the time and energy to guarantee that the link assortment would happen on time twice a month.

But knowing how much it mattered to me to maintain the community support, my brother stepped up to help draft and schedule posts. He worked with me to keep the load as light as possible: often I’d forward him email or point him at items of interest online, and he’d pull together event dates, images, links, and summary text for me to review before it all went live.

He’s now stepped back again for the time being, but I wanted to acknowledge the kindness.

Events

July 28 is the next meetup of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction.

July 31 is the deadline to vote in ParserComp. There are a bunch of people currently writing reviews of these games.

August 7 is the next SF Bay interactive fiction meetup.

Programming Languages and Interactive Entertainment is a 2-day workshop running alongside the AIIDE conference. Paper submissions are due by August 12, and the event itself will be October 11-12. This workshop also has a “conversation starters” track, where people are encouraged to submit materials to spur discussion groups. Demos of languages are also welcome. If you’re working on a domain-specific language for interactive fiction development, this might be a place to share what you’re working on.

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.

Articles

Here’s a fun interview with inkle about the development of Overboard!

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I know I’m constantly linking these, but Aaron Reed’s series 50 Years of Text Games continues to be excellent, and is now up to 1996 with Andrew Plotkin’s So Far.

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Mr Pages, from the Mask of the Rose art (Failbetter Games)

This month, I also published a blog post on Failbetter’s blog about character behaviour development for Mask of the Rose.

The game is built in ink, and doesn’t have the programmatic sophistication of something like Versu. But Mask does have its own notion of a social model, used to resolve how characters respond to the player and whether they’re willing to do as you ask.

That response-resolution plays out in the immediate performance as well as the long-term outcome. Even where the lines of dialogue don’t change, the system’s ability to distinguish between “hesitant cooperation” and “happy cooperation” may feed into character expressions and pacing of delivery (since we can do things like automate a brief pause).

These are nuances that could be scripted by hand, in theory, but in practice we just wouldn’t have time to do it.

Books and Games

Not new in general, but new to me: this week I came across A. M. Sartor’s illustrated interactive work, including a couple of hauntingly-depicted poems and storybooks.

End of June Link Assortment

Events

July 3 is the next SF Bay Area IF Meetup.

ParserComp closes for new entrants very very soon, and the games will be available to play and judge throughout July – so if you’d like to try some piping hot new text adventures, they’ll be available shortly. (If you’re curious about the how and why of voting, there’s an extended discussion of it on the intfiction forums.)

Recent Things

RockPaperShotgun has an article about Failbetter’s working process that also includes a bit about our forthcoming work and a few quotes of mine.

The Short Game podcast has recently covered a number of IF and IF-adjacent games – including inkle’s Overboard.

Aaron Reed’s excellent 50 Years of Text Games series continues, this time with an article on Patchwork Girl, a piece of classic hypertext. (If you’re curious about what I’ve written about it as well, that’s here.)

Mid-June Link Assortment

Events

June 30 is the last day to submit games to ParserComp.

July 3 is the next SF / Bay Area IF Meetup.

New Releases

Overboard! is a new interactive detective story from inkle – in which you are definitely the culprit, and the only question is who is going to take the fall for your misdeeds. It’s available for iOS and on Steam.

If you prefer your stories in interactive audio form instead, you may be interested in Wanderword’s audio horror story Escape from 63rd and Wallace, set in 1890s Chicago. Playable on the Amazon Echo, it features two modes, story-focused and puzzle-focused.

Books

Narrative Mechanics is a book of articles on games and the making of meaning through mechanics.

Articles

Aaron Reed’s 50 Years of Text Games series continues to deliver extraordinary stories about the history of the medium. I found myself particularly enthralled and fascinated with his telling of the games written by St. Bride’s – a chapter in game history I’d not heard of before Aaron brought it to my attention.

Talks

The London IF Meetup heard from Destina Connor about characterisation and identity in JRPGs. A recording can be found here.

Jeremiah McCall recently spoke about teaching history through video games, and that talk can be found on YouTube.

End of May Link Assortment

Events

June 5 is the next SF / Bay Area IF Meetup.

June 13 is the next Seattle Area IF Meetup.

June 21 I will be presenting to the VOLUPTAS summer school, which is working on playable experiences to teach architecture. Game designers interested in the crossover with architectural pedagogy might find this an interesting project.

June 30 is the ParserComp 2021 submission deadline.

Links & Articles

Sofia Kitromili at Bournemouth University is currently conducting a user experience study on improving mental resilience through the use of an interactive narrative application, and is looking for people over the age of 18 to participate.

The storytelling experience will prompt participants to engage in choice-based conversational storytelling and allow them to traverse a narrative as well as engage in optional reading and writing activities that are designed to strengthen mental resilience. Anyone interested to know more can send an email to Sofia at skitromili@bournemouth.ac.uk.

New Releases

Steve Ince has a new book coming out, aimed at kids who want to learn the ropes of game writing. The book launch is scheduled for June 20, and will have a live streaming event on Facebook at 5pm BST. The book is primarily written for designers ages 10 and up.

Kickstarters

Tim Fowers is currently running a kickstarter for his latest game, Paperback Adventures. As of this post, the project is already backed, but you can still donate or secure a copy if you are so inclined.

“Conquer a menagerie of pulp novel characters in this solo deckbuilding word game.

Just like in the original game Paperback—and its follow up, Hardback—you will build your own deck of cards throughout the game, and those cards will have letters to help you spell words every turn. But in Paperback Adventures, instead of testing your wordsmithing wit against other players, you will use your words to defeat a series of AI enemies in “roguelike” fashion.

Paperback Adventures is a solo-focused game. It was designed from the ground up as a strategic, highly-replayable solo word game. There are also additional gameplay variants for cooperative play between two players.”