Links and Various Small Things

— Speaking of browser-based IF, this post has a surprisingly large collection of links to old-school games playable through a browser; a lot of it is Zplet stuff, but there’s also access to some old Scott Adams games, The Hobbit, and Oregon Trail (not strictly IF, but I have fuzzy nostalgic feelings about it all the same).

— The Guardian’s wikigame project continues apace — there’s room to contribute small amounts (even object descriptions, etc) even if you’re not interested in attempting to code or participate at a broader level.

— According to my inbox, the Australasian Interactive Entertainment conference 2008 has put out a call for papers and demonstrations. Papers are due July 18th, demonstration abstracts August 1; the conference itself will take place in Brisbane, December 3-5, 2008. They’re interested in several IF-ish topics, including “interactive digital storytelling” and (for people using IF in school projects) “e-learning and the role of games in pedagogy”. I don’t expect to be in Australia in December myself, but maybe others will want to participate. (The website seems to be a bit temperamental about coming up, but that is definitely the URL I was given.)

— Following up on Jeff Nyman’s RAIF post a few weeks ago about the lack of readily-accessible, indexed information about previous projects, I added a bunch of “making-of” article links to ifwiki’s Craft page. I probably missed lots, though. Feel free to add more. (I also keep thinking it would be great if the interpreter page were updated to reflect the existence of Flaxo, Parchment, et al., but editing access to that page seems to have been restricted due to spammers.)

— I’ve very minutely updated the I7 syntax document: it still included “inventory listing”, which has been removed from 5T18. Thanks to Sarganar for pointing out this documentation bug.

A meta-post

There are various good ways to announce projects and cool stuff to the IF community, such as:

  • Posting to rec.arts.int-fiction or rec.games.int-fiction — these get a lot of posts daily and are the main point of contact in the community. If you’re not an IF regular but you want to get the word out about a contest, program, or event to people who are, your best bet is to post there.
  • Sending an announcement to SPAG (which comes out every few months and includes community news) or Brass Lantern (which runs an RSS feed updated much more frequently but with briefer content)
  • Having your own blog which you arrange to have picked up by Planet IF
  • Listing events, tools, or projects at ifwiki
  • Listing new games at IFDB

I mention this because I kinda want to discourage the trend of people asking me to mention/promote things on this blog.

I hope this doesn’t seem curmudgeonly, but there are already places to keep track of IF news. I’d prefer to keep this space for (a) stuff I’m working on myself or (b) stuff I have an opinion about and think is worth sharing. I’m not going to post announcements without looking at what they’re announcements for, but I don’t always have enough time to immediately check out everything that winds up in my inbox. And of course sometimes I look at something and don’t think it’s that interesting. (Bad judgment on my part, I’m sure.)

So… yeah. If you want to email me about something you think is cool, that’s terrific, but you should realize there’s a fair chance that I won’t have time to look it over right away, or that I won’t be moved to talk about it here.

A small exercise

Apropos of recent discussions on RAIF about writing quality, telling compelling stories, and hooking the player fast:

Occasionally I find it worthwhile to stop and write a four- or five-sentence book-jacket-style blurb for my work in progress.

This sounds kind of cynical, but it forces me to identify right away what I think are the main hooks of my story. What is the protagonist’s initial problem? How does it change? Why do we care? Having those things in mind is useful as I’m planning the game, especially the opening scenes and the prologue text. If the blurb is weak, that often means I haven’t made the initial motivations compelling enough — so then I get to think through how to strengthen them a bit. Or if the blurb is good, but it’s describing things that don’t become obvious until well into the game, maybe I need to rethink the way I’m telling the story to put more of the hook right at the beginning.

I don’t claim this technique is the solution to all our storytelling woes, but I find it helpful, so maybe other people will too.