Planet Interactive Fiction

May 23, 2017

Strand Games

Who Was Fred 23?

by hugh at May 23, 2017 04:13 PM

Is that him, in the picture? No no, surely this is just your friendly, local neighbourhood inflatable dinosaur juggler!

No, fred23 was a program not a person. To understand what fred23 was, it's is necessary to explain a bit about the Magnetic Scrolls' world model.

The World Model

Rooms, objects and people within a Magnetic Scrolls adventure game had a standard set of properties that described, in considerable detail, their behaviour including their descriptions and how they might b...

Emily Short

Ladykiller in a Bind (Christine Love/Love Conquers All)

by Emily Short at May 23, 2017 09:42 AM

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 9.52.53 PM.png

Ladykiller in a Bind is an erotic visual novel by Christine Love and co, released last year; it won the IGF Narrative category. Consequently, there’s already quite a lot of commentary about it, especially around its handling of queerness and kink; a late-game scene with dubious consent that bothered some players and that Love ultimately wound up replacing; about mechanics that do not make sex the end goal in itself. Andrew Plotkin wrote up his take on it, and the genre of visual novels in general, as part of his IGF Narrative judging overview.

Plenty of interactive erotica exists — and there’s plenty of demand for it, too, as witness the fact that people searching for interactive sex stories form a sizable portion of my daily blog traffic. They’re probably mostly disappointed, but perhaps this entry will console them a little?

But relatively little of what I’ve encountered is as well-written as Ladykiller in a Bind, particularly when it comes to characterization. As Olivia Wood points out, sex scenes avoid being embarrassing by having something to say beyond “here is a peek at the author’s fantasies.” Ladykiller does that. It uses its sex scenes to communicate who the characters are, and shape their relationships with the protagonist; to talk about honesty, fairness, emotional manipulation, self-image, power exchange, and consent. And sometimes the sex conversation feeds back into dialogue about other things:

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 8.08.51 PM

The story is very much a fantasy, with a cast of super-attractive, wealthy, popular just-barely-18-year-olds. And the framing plot is ridiculous: the protagonist is a girl cross-dressing as her twin brother and hoping that none of his friends, enemies, and exes on the ship will notice. Nonetheless, the sex scenes detail emotional states that are relatively rarely shown in media. I don’t just mean the BDSM aspects here, either. There’s a storyline about a character who is relatively inexperienced and also doubts her own attractiveness, who gradually alters what she wants to consent to as she becomes more confident, and this played out quite plausibly.

That’s not to say the game is, or is trying to be, an encyclopedia of all possible sex formats. There are some places it didn’t go, at least during any of my playthroughs: the BDSM scenes I saw delved deeper into the bondage and submission aspects than into the masochism side, for instance. And, unsurprisingly, the scenarios skew towards issues that arise early in a relationship or for relatively inexperienced partners. At one point the older Maid does comment on the comparative immaturity of all the characters — an acknowledgement that would have felt like a lampshade, except that of course these characters are immature. They haven’t had time to become anything else.

But never mind about sex. Let’s talk about conversation mechanics.

Ladykiller in a Bind may be a visual novel, but it deploys decisions in more fluid way than usual: dialogue options turn up in the top portion of the screen, but you can continue clicking through the bottom of the screen to let everyone else carry the conversation on without you. If you wait long enough, those conversation options start to fade (giving you once last chance to select them), then disappear again. Every once in a while there’s a node that you can’t escape without making an actual decision, but those are comparatively rare:

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 1.56.54 PM.png

Love explains:

“We have a thing where choices appear as they occur to the player, then disappear as they’re no longer relevant to conversation,” Love explained. “So it turns into a matter of ‘Well, I could say this, but what if something more clever comes to mind? What if I think of the perfect rejoinder?'”

Since options flow out of and into conversation, you run the risk of having The Beast “just sit there like an idiot,” as Love puts it.

(Ars Technica.)

Conversation (or other) choices as a snapshot of what’s in the protagonist’s head have a solid history in IF, often supplying extra characterization in games with an author-defined protagonist. Adam Cadre’s Narcolepsy riffs on this far enough to split the screen between external events and interiority. The thoughts indicate what you could choose to do, together with some context on why you might select those options:

glulxe_narco.png

…and I found myself thinking of this experience quite a few times as Ladykiller‘s ideas floated into view.

And make no mistake: Ladykiller in a Bind definitely has a well-defined protagonist. You can push her in certain directions, but she comes into the story with a specific sexual history and particular preferences. There are things that turn her on, which might or might not be the same as what appeals to the player. There are things she considers saying but immediately marks as Mean or Deceitful, and your decision is whether she goes ahead and says them anyway.

Ladykiller‘s mechanics put an extra spin on this, though: everything you think of saying, you have to weigh in terms of how you-the-player are roleplaying the protagonist and also how the protagonist is roleplaying her brother. Can I get away with this? Is it what I would want to say? Is it what my brother would say? If not, is it far enough off-base that people are likely to be able to tell? Suspicious things to say are marked with ! indicators, so the player isn’t operating in the dark: you don’t have to guess what the author’s thinking here, just decide which tradeoffs you’re willing to make. But the mechanic keeps the balance of competing roles constantly visible to the player.

Meanwhile, the possibility of silence gives more agency to the NPCs. This is something we explored in Versu quite a bit — the other characters would keep talking without you unless the author had specially marked a moment as being must-answer — and it does, I think, help dissolve the sense that the protagonist is the only motivating force in the universe.

Mechanically, this also inverts the common confirmation-required structure where the player can pick a dangerous approach and then gets a bunch of chances to bail out. Here, you’ve got loads of opportunities to do nothing, but if you commit to a choice, you have to go where it leads you. That means the player has a lot of time to consider what she wants to say. Even supposedly emotional outbursts often feel calculated. Which is appropriate for the story this is.

*

If you like Ladykiller, you might also be interested in Black Closet.


Tagged: Christine Love, Ladykiller in a Bind

Post Position

Sliders

by Nick Montfort at May 23, 2017 12:12 AM

Sliders front cover, with battlements

My minimal book Sliders has been published by my press, Bad Quarto. The book contains 32 poems, some of which are only one word long. In a break from tradition, they are not computer-generated.

Currently Sliders is only available for sale at the MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Mass.

Sliders back cover, with blurbs

May 22, 2017

Gamefic

Testing Interactive Fiction with Automated Gameplay

May 22, 2017 08:41 PM

I've been experimenting with player bots for interactive fiction. Besides being a fun exercise, I thought they might be a useful debugging tool. I even thought they might be able to prove the "validity" of a story model, e.g., that the story can never be played into an unfinishable state. I'm not sure that's possible with a non-trivial story, but I figured I'd give it a shot. Read more

The Gameshelf: IF

Hadean Lands release 2.1.0

by Andrew Plotkin at May 22, 2017 08:41 PM

I have updated the Mac/Win/Linux version of Hadean Lands on Steam. These are small UI changes, mostly inherited from the past year's worth of Lectrote updates. The gameplay has not changed, and save files will continue to work undisturbed.

The same UI changes have gone out to Itch.io and the Humble Store. (Last week, really.)

  • In the journal window, you can now sort items by name or by date (the order you discovered them in the game).
  • Added two new color themes: Sepia and Slate.
  • Changed the "Reset" menu item to "Reset Completely" (to match the in-game command for completely starting over).
  • Changed the "Close Window" menu item to "Close Game" for the main game window. (Except on Mac, sorry. The Mac's menu bar works poorly with this app framework.)
  • Fixed a slight size miscalculation in the status window.
  • Updated the Electron app framework to 1.4.16.

Enjoy.

Strand Games

First Attempt at Restoring Magnetic Scrolls Backup Tapes

by hugh at May 22, 2017 07:45 PM

This is Rob Jarretts' DECstation 2100 with a TZ85 tape drive. He's been trying really hard to restore data from our old TK50 backup tapes made by our DEC MicroVAX back in 1988.

The first tape we tried was, unfortunately, not readable. This might be for any number of reasons. Old tapes tend to die or sometimes old tape can stick to the drive head and quickly turn into a horrible mess. Of course, it's even possible that the tape is blank - despite what the label says. Because no one can actu...

IFComp News

Clarifying the copyright rule

May 22, 2017 07:41 PM

Without changing its intent, we have rewritten author rule #1 to clarify IFComp’s entry requirements regarding originality and respect for other works’ copyrights. The previous wording put its emphasis on seeking permission to make use of any copyrighted material, making it unclear where the rules stood on, say, work under a creative commons license, or on fair use in general.

The IFComp rules now boil it down to a single lead sentence: Entries may not infringe on other works’ copyrights. “Infringe” being the key word here, since plenty of paths exist to incorporate material from another work into one’s own in a manner both wholly original and perfectly legal under American copyright law. The rules page links directly to resources that provide further details and examples about how American-style fair use principles can apply to IFComp entries.

This latter point, too, is new: as a program of a U.S.-based nonprofit, IFComp (according to said nonprofit’s legal counsel) can comfortably and unambiguously state that it operates under American copyright jurisdiction, even though it welcomes – and indeed, thrives through – entries from authors around the globe. We feel confident that this specificity will give us a firmer foothold from which to answer questions and make future rules decisions as needed.

The 2016 IFComp is open for entry

May 22, 2017 07:41 PM

Hello fellow text fans,

The 2016 Annual Interactive Fiction Competition is now open for entry. All this year’s hopefuls must have their intents to enter submitted by September 1, with September 28 as the final deadline for the entries themselves. Here, as always, is the full competition schedule.

To enter the IFComp, visit the competition website, log in (creating a free account if you don’t already have one), and then visit your entry-management page.

The only significant rules change this year is our experimental relaxing of the “hush rule”, which in years past has forbidden entrants from publicly discussing entries during the six-week judging period. See that blog post for more details on the rule change. Please do read the revised rule if you intend to enter the competition this year.

We intend to make (and note on this blog) a few more small tweaks to the rules-wording and the entry process, all little improvements and based on past critique, but no further changes as major as that this year. And there is also the news from a couple of days ago about IFComp’s new relationship with the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, but this doesn’t directly affect the way the comp runs.

It’s also time for us to start rattling the cup for IFComp prize-pool donations! Pretty much anything can be a prize – cash, books, food, professional services, and more. We encourage fun and creativity here. To donate a prize, simply email the organizers with your prize proposal. If we accept the prize (and we probably will), then we’ll connect you with the author claiming the prize after the competition ends.

IFComp is now part of IFTF

May 22, 2017 07:41 PM

Starting today – well, starting several days ago, really, with some minor website updates still pending – IFComp now operates under the stewardship of The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new, charitable nonprofit organization that seeks to help maintain and preserve the software and services that make modern IF possible.

What does this mean to you, the IFComp participant? Not a whole lot, really – none of the competition’s rules or policies are changing as a result of this, and IFComp is led by the same team of volunteers. But, as I wrote on the intfiction.org forum post announcing IFTF to the community:

Through IFTF, IFComp can now effectively own its own code and copyrights. Community-provided funding (and, where applicable, tax-deductible volunteer work) can significantly broaden IFComp’s own technological and organizational potential. And formally transferring the ownership from an individual to a nonprofit company also grants IFComp a new measure of safety and stability. I see all these as infrastructural improvements that IFComp, important as it is to the IF community and the world beyond as well, has long deserved.

So there you have it. And, of course, if you love IFComp, you now have a new way to support it through donations to IFTF, for which we would be humbly grateful.

Please feel free as always to direct any questions about IFTF or IFComp’s relationship with it to us at [email protected]

Relaxing the hush rule

May 22, 2017 07:41 PM

Following quite a bit of thoughtful public discussion, we’re carrying on with our experiment to relax Author Rule #4 this year.

The revised rule reads as follows:

Authors may not encourage competition judges to violate the rules that pertain to them (as listed above). This includes, but is not limited to, the rule requiring judges to cast all ratings in good faith.

In other words: while you are free to talk about your entries in public, please avoid suggesting to judges, directly or indirectly, how they ought to fill out their ballots. Competition voting rules and guidelines already instruct judges to rate entries according to their own tastes and principles, based on their individual experiences with the works. Please do not ask them to act in any other way.

Please see the full rules page for the change in context.

RFC: Relaxing IFComp's "hush rule"

May 22, 2017 07:41 PM

Over on the intfiction.org forums, I have posted a request for comments on a proposed experimental rules-change for 2016’s IFComp. This would relax the competition’s long-standing rule forbidding entrants from engaging in public discussion about the competition during the six-week judging period.

If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about this proposal, please do either reply on that thread, or write the IFComp organizers via email ([email protected]).

Librojuegos

The Kickstarter of “The Frankenstein Wars” begins, by @CubusGames

by PabloBcn at May 22, 2017 07:41 AM

The_Kickstarter_of_“The_Frankenstein_Wars”_begins,_by_@CubusGamesThe Kickstarter of the new gamebook for mobile platforms by catalan developers Cubus games has recently been released. It started as an original idea by Dave Morris the author of such amazing works as Heart of Ice, Bloodsword, or the co-author of Fabled Lands, written by Paul Gresty, also with a good number of important gamebooks in his curriculum (Arcana Agency: the Thief of Memories, The ORPHEUS Ruse). With these credentials, it is obvious that something very special is being conceived.

The Frankenstein Wars“, as the sinopsis says, tells us a story about:The_Kickstarter_of_“The_Frankenstein_Wars”_begins,_by_@CubusGames

Tom and Anton Clerval have long guarded the secret to Victor Frankenstein’s resurrection technology. In revolutionary France, in 1827, that secret at last comes to light. The radical Zeroiste movement creates an army of the reanimated dead to seize control of the country, and then to cross the Channel to strike at the heart of the British Empire. Only Tom and Anton have the power to halt the Zeroistes – or to stoke the flames of all-out war. Decide the fate of the world in this enhanced interactive adventure in the same vein as classic series such as Fighting Fantasy or Choose Your Own Adventure.

The Kickstarter page talks about a game in which we can explore interactive maps, direct the two main characters in a non-linear story, choose between several objectives or even directo whole batallions in a battle. Time will have its importance, as it will affect if we can finish the storylines or not, and even the changing climatology will have its effect in our actions.

The graphical aspect, thanks to the good work of the artist from Girona Rafater (Rafa Teruel), is superb, as you can see in the images of this article.

The Frankenstein Wars” seems an interesting and ambitious project, and with this team, what can possibly go wrong?

You can find the Kickstarter page HERE

Spooky Action at a Distance

SFF REVIEW: creating sensitively, AI, and “The Algorithms of Value”

by catacalypto at May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

Hello, fellow travelers. There’s been a minor hiccup lately due to travel, but the lifestyles of two peripatetic writer-academics means slight scheduling adjustments. When this post goes live, Arkady should be somewhere in Istanbul, and Cat should be somewhere in the middle of the US, heading east. We’re back on schedule, though. The following piece is Cat’s review (of sorts) on Robert Reed’s “The Algorithms of Value”, published in the January 2016 issue of Clarkesworld, and found here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/reed_01_16/

 

I’ve found myself recommending “The Algorithms of Value” several times in the last week, in quite different contexts. This is perhaps not unsurprising. I knew of Robert Reed before this venture; if I say “I enjoyed this story by a Hugo-award winning novelist”, that is not exactly a groundbreaking assertion. But I keep coming back to it, not even primarily for the structure or the plot but for the world it creates, and what that vision might offer our own.

“The Algorithms of Value” depicts a world of sufficiency, in which each human’s basic drives are weighed and measured by artificial intelligence systems which assess and provide necessities. Safety, food, water, and shelter are accommodated for by these AI-controlled rooms; the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy are not the only provisions, however. The rooms can supply beauty, music, pleasure; the algorithms still have room for individuality and personal beliefs, and inequality is still a facet of the world. Equality without uniformity. All this is the work of a team of coders, lawyers, creative, and sentient AIs, in part led by the story’s protagonist, Parchment.

The story doesn’t detail the algorithms exactly, only their effects, but the effects are significant—enough to cause a shift which Parchment’s late husband claims will last ten million years. The backstory of Parchment’s complex marriage to her husband, the financier of the Algorithms, was compelling– a fascinating portrait of a facet of Parchment’s past, much in the way the room she wakes up in is. But it’s the Algorithms that draw me, again and again—the question Parchment and her colleagues ask—their attempt to answer “what will we make of our world?”

The question of what we’re doing to and with our AIs has been exceedingly relevant lately; we all remember Microsoft’s experiment with Tay, the bot who was supposed to mimic a teen girl and who the internet trained to spew racist, sexist, anti-Semitic remarks within twenty-four hours. There’s significant overlap between the IF and AI communities, especially with twitterbots and Kate Compton’s Tracery tool for procedurally generated fiction, and the overwhelming response in my communities was “…yeah, we could have told you this was going to happen” and “you didn’t do basic things we learned about years ago?”

It wasn’t as if Microsoft didn’t take some steps, which makes the matter more vexing. Tay was trained to respond to a specific incident, like the shooting of Eric Garner, with more nuance than some people on our Facebook feeds. Despite this, there were (seemingly) no checks against the user-submitted corpus of information which Tay was barraged with. This is, to put it mildly, a gross and offensive oversight for which the community of Twitter bot makers has been creating interesting solutions for some time; for instance, there’s Darius Kazemi’s solution to stopping his popular TwoHeadlines bot from telling transphobic jokes. In the end, the overwhelming feeling seemed to be confusion and frustration—how many more times will this happen before we learn that we can correct for sensitivity, that we can weigh input for greater or lesser import, and that transparency in our algorithms of what we value is always better than silence?

Reed’s story, to me, suggests that the solution to the gnawing need in us once all of our needs are satisfied is not exploration or trailblazing, not reaching out but reaching across. “The Algorithms of Value” poses empathy as the solution, that arriving at a nuanced understanding of ourselves and each other is perhaps of inestimable value. Perhaps that’s a lesson to take away as we—writers and developers, dreamers and programmers—ask ourselves, and each other, what we’ll make of our world.


Web Interactive Fiction

IF Interpreters and Separation of Concerns

by David Cornelson at May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

As a software architect in the business world, one of the prerequisites to any system is to adhere to certain rules. One of these rules is “separation of concerns” and it’s meant to ensure that different types of logic remain separate from each other.

One of the common implementations of this rule is the separation of user interface and data. In the Interactive Fiction world, this would mean breaking apart the standard interpreter into two things. One to handle the story execution and one to handle the user interface. Luckily we have the ability to adhere to this rule with browser technology.

One of my primary reasons for building FyreVM, even in its original C# implementation, was to support the implementation of SoC. This is just good system design from my perspective.

I was able to achieve this on the Windows side of things and even to some degree in a browser using Silverlight, but that was never going to be something to which the average author would gravitate.

So that’s when (and why) I procured glulx-typescript through a Elance/Upwork project.

And as mentioned, having just the VM wasn’t enough. It had to have a full implementation to show how SoC works with Interactive Fiction. The Cloak of Darkness story in my fyrevm-web GitHub repository does just that.

But it really only shows the very basic requirements of SoC. There are elements of the IF interpreter that are tightly bound to the platform we use to develop stories. These include:

  • text styling
  • window or panel creation and management
  • images/video
  • sound
  • menus
  • modal popups
  • text location
  • link creation and intent

In developing fyrevm-web further, it’s my plan to make extensions for all of these types of UI communication. So the author won’t manage windows, but she might target a component with a particular set of text or she might say a panel should open or close based on story progression. But the actual window management would be entirely in the browser. The same would hold true for these other aspects of an IF interpreter. The HTML/browser would care and feed UI elements and the story file would just manage story, thus we reach separation of concerns in IF.

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adv3Lite

Library Reference Manual for adv3Lite

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

A tool that many people find useful when writing Interactive Fiction with TADS 3 is the Library Reference Manual. A version of the Library Reference Manual for use with adv3Lite is now available and may be downloaded from here.

This has been created using the docgen tool. While this pretty much worked okay, it's not quite perfect, in that the differences between action definitions in adv3 and adv3Lite means that the adv3Lite Library Reference Manual hasn't coped with Action objects all that well. In particular, the Actions tab is empty, and actions instead appear under Functions (in definitions like DefineTAction(Take)). For most purposes, however, the adv3Lite version of the Library Reference Manual should work perfectly well (to look up information on specific actions you may want to use the Actions reference in the adv3Lite manual).

To use it, download the file and unzip it into a convenient location (such as under your adv3Lite directory). You might find it convenient to then bookmark the index.htm file in your browser.

UPDATE: I've tweaked the DocGen program a bit today (28-Apr-13) and fixed most of the problems mentioned above. A new, improved version of the adv3Lite Library Reference Manual has now been uploaded to the same location as before. The Action index now works, and several spurious entries have been removed from the Function index, as well as a number of other tweaks.

Version 0.7 of adv3Lite now available

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

Version 0.7 of adv3Lite (the alternative library for use with TADS 3) is now available for download from http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58348218/adv3Lite/adv3Lite07.zip. The change log may be viewed at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58348218/adv3Lite/docs/manual/changelog.htm.

This update completes the programme of work described in the previous post, that is it removes some redundant code, moves as many of the library messages as possible from the libMessages object to use the BMsg/DMsg system instead, and considerably expands the commenting in the library code. It also fixes a number of bugs and tweaks quite a number of features, mainly in the light of my starting to write a "real" game in adv3Lite rather than simply a tutorial game or test game.

This may well be the last release for a while, since this release completes the programme of work I had in mind to do. There will doubtless be other bugs and feature improvements that come to light in the course of use, so eventually there'll probably be another release to incorporate them (once they grow to a sufficient number), but the reality is there's not much more I can usefully do with adv3Lite until I get more feedback on it.

Eric Eve

Version 0.6 of adv3Lite now available.

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

Version 0.6 of adv3Lite is now available for download from http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58348218/adv3Lite/adv3Lite06.zip The change log may be viewed at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58348218/adv3Lite/docs/manual/changelog.htm. This version fixes a number of bugs and tweaks quite a large number of features, generally enhancing the useability of the system.

The adv3Lite library is still in beta, but it should now be starting to settle down into more or less its final form, and could be used for writing a game. There will inevitably still be some rough edges that need smoothing off (and no doubt the odd bug lurking somewhere), but it's got to the point where it's hard to see how these can be sorted out without more people trying out the library and providing feedback.

I have more or less completed all the changes I have in mind, apart from a bit of tidying up (see below). In particular, I have no plans for any additional features in future releases, although I'm always open to persuasive suggestions!

The more I've worked on adv3Lite, the less appropriate the name adv3Lite has felt. While I originally started out with the idea of a greatly simplified version of the adv3 library melded with the Mercury parser, adv3Lite has become rather more than that. While it retains quite a few similarities to adv3 it also does quite a few things differently and now has quite a few features that adv3 doesn't. While I still think that adv3Lite should prove easier to use and learn than adv3 for many people, it should no longer be seen simply as a 'lite' version, and at some point that will need to be reflected in a name change, more on which below the cut.



I think it would be a bit odd to go from adv3Lite version 0.6 to SomethingElse version 0.7, so it seems to me that that the best time to make a name change would be when adv3Lite (or whatever it's renamed as) comes out of beta and becomes Version 1.0 of Whatever.

So far as the what the new name should be, I've had a few ideas and suggestions, but I've yet to settle on any of them. Names like 'Hermes' and 'Quicksilver' would retain the connection with Mercury (though while I quite like the name 'Quicksilver' I believe it's already in use as the name of some software). 'Mermaid' would retain the first syllable of 'Mercury' and perhaps sound alluring, although I'm otherwise far from sold on its relevance. 'Advantage' would maintain the first three letters of 'adv3Lite' while suggesting something advantageous, so I quite like that idea (although it's arguably a bit generic). Another perfectly feasible suggestion I've received is 'Spectrum', suggesting something that should appeal to a wide spectrum of users. As yet I'm completely undecided, so if anyone wishes to comment on any of these possible names or suggest any others, please feel free to do so (though I make no promises about adopting anyone's suggestions!).

In the meantime, the work I know I still need to do (for the next release) is almost entirely tidying up. In particular this means:


  1. Doing away with the libMessages object if possible by moving all its messages to where they are used in the library, making use of DMsg() or BMsg(); the libMessages object is a leftover from the need (or desire) to incorporate adv3 code quickly into adv3Lite in its early stages, but retaining it would mean encumbering adv3Lite with two different messaging systems, which is clearly undesirable in the long term.

  2. Removing leftover redundant and commented-out code. The marriage of Mercury, the work I had been doing on a library pre-Mercury, and code borrowed from adv3 has probably resulted in adv3Lite carrying a few pieces of code that are never in fact used anywhere (since the same job was being done in different ways in the sources on which adv3Lite drew). These need to be identified and removed along with the commented-out code that's been left in up to now just in case it proved necessary or useful.

  3. The commenting in the library source files needs to be brought up to a consistent standard throughout. Right now it's a bit patchy.



These three (collectively far from non-trivial) tasks will probably form the bulk of what I'll be doing for the next release. I say 'probably' since it's conceivable (though I hope unlikely) that a bug-fix release will prove to be necessary before all this work is continued. Assuming that this doesn't turn out to be the case, the three items listed above constitute the bulk of what you can expect in version 0.7, though there will probably also be a couple of bug fixes if more minor bugs come to light, and there could well be a few very minor feature enhancements to smooth off any rough edges that are encountered. It's also possible that someone out there will come up with a suggestion for a larger change that seems worth incorporating!


— Eric Eve

Maintenance Release of adv3Lite

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

The last release of adv3Lite, version 0.4, turns out to have quite a lot of issues (by which I mean bugs and features of a sufficiently suboptimal nature to qualify as quasi-bugs). While none of them is exactly life-threatening, cumulatively they could prove sufficiently annoying that it seemed as well to get a maintenance release (version 0.5) out as quickly as possible. This can now be downloaded from http://db.tt/AXBKtaRf. The changelog can be viewed at http://db.tt/OahUZXDs.

adv3Lite Version 0.4 Now Available

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

The latest release of adv3Lite, version 0.4, is now available from http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58348218/adv3Lite/adv3Lite04.zip. The main focus of this release is on improving the way objects are listed in room listings and the like, and giving game authors a bit more control over how this is done. But there are also tweaks to quite a number of other features, together with a number of bug fixes, quite a few of which are related to the parser.

Sparkly IF Reviews

howling dogs

by Emily Short at May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

There is a sentence in this I have not been able to stop thinking about: something like “I am cut off from the passion of religious women.”

This sentence fascinates me and makes me sad. I thought of three different meanings for it:

— “Other religious women exist, but I am blocked (by society, by men, by having mystical/feminist experiences labeled heretical) from communicating with them or drawing on their strength.”

— “I am not, or am no longer, religious, and therefore I cannot enter into the passion of these women, although there is something about their experience that I wish I could share.” This meaning had the most personal resonance.

— “Religious belief — even religious delusion — would provide a frame that made sense of my sufferings, but as it is I am being persecuted without even having the benefit of a cause.”

All of those interpretations seemed meaningful and powerful to me.


Beythilda the Night Witch

by Sam Kabo Ashwell at May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

Poetry is a hard, hard discipline, one that places an incredible number of demands on a relatively small volume of writing. Everything about every word counts, and small flaws are magnified; you have to be very, very good at poetry before you stop being bad at it. And poetry is a uniquely vulnerable form, blending the emotional directness of music without the cover of abstraction. (If a pianist slips up, their mistake looks like a mistake, nothing more. It doesn’t look as though they’re saying something that they didn’t mean.)

Conveying information to the player in an IF game is also a hard task for a writer. A lot of different functions have to be packed into a small space: the impression of a physical space needs to be generated and sustained, the significant particulars of that space have to be defined in a clear and memorable manner, likely modes of interaction need to be suggested but not shouted, the personality and immediate motivations of the protagonist should be conveyed, and every other demand normally imposed by good writing still needs to be satisfied.

And when IF and poetry are combined, things get more constrictive than either medium. Narrative poetry, for instance, can often afford to be long-winded; the poet has the freedom to leave the narrative aside to pursue some extended simile or draw a moral about a broader point, or otherwise spend a good pile of verses focused in on something of more importance to thematics than to the plot. There is not much room to do this in IF.

So choosing to write IF as poetry is a tremendously brave decision, particularly in a format where very little time is available for reworking. And it’s non-trivial that Beythilda is so functional at delivering core IF needs: I was never confused about the general situation of the character, the progression of the story or plausible things that I should be trying. I had a strong enough sense of my surroundings to feel grounded in a world.


Valkyrie

by Zach Samuels at May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

Thieves often get the short end of the stick when it comes to characterization in role-playing games. Paladins get to cut through hoards of orcs, while mages blast lightning bolts from their fingers. But thieves end up as skulking and sketchy, or, even worse, as nothing more than portable trap detectors. Being a thief isn’t just about picking pockets and finding trip wires. It’s an attitude, a way of life, and Valkyrie captures it delightfully. From one of the thief endings:

“It took three hours and a ‘borrowed’ van but I managed to steal every last coin in the room without anyone noticing … I returned home and began planning a new life with my acquired fortune happily thinking that I now didn’t have to rent a van to move.”

I’ve had to move often in recent years, each time shelling out several hundred dollars in U-Haul fees. You think a mistress thief is worried about that? Nah.  She’s got it covered.


Inkle

Can a Story Game Have Too Much Game?

May 22, 2017 05:00 AM

On this week's inklecast we ask a question that's close to our hearts: when is the game part of your story game too much game for your story?

In all our projects, we try to marry the gameplay and the narrative elements so tightly together that neither could be removed - but is there an argument for the cutscene-and-play model? Have a listen and tell us what you think.

Never miss an episode - subscribe on iTunes or use the RSS feed!

Ron Newcomb

Inform 7 Substitutions, Substituted - by Ron Newcomb

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

A new version of the venerable interactive fiction authoring system Inform 7 has landed, and some of the more esoteric parts have changed. Let's help each other out.

The Scene and the Planning Tree - by Ron Newcomb

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

There's a parallel between the planning tree of artificial intelligence and the scenes of narrative.

Argument Maps for Unscripted Conversation - by Ron Newcomb

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

To replace dialogue trees, we first need a way to represent the ideas in play during verbal conflict.

AllThingsJacq.com: IF

Review: 2008 One Room Game Comp

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

Reviews of the three of this years One Room Comp games (the ones in English... sorry, perhaps one day I'll round out my languages with Italian!)

Review: 2008 French IF Competition

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

English-language reviews of this year's French Interactive Fiction competition.

ClubFloyd Updates

Transcript: The Horrible Pyramid by Ryan Veeder

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

A new transcript has been posted for The Horrible Pyramid by Ryan Veeder

Transcript: Robin & Orchid by Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim

May 22, 2017 04:59 AM

A new transcript has been posted for Robin & Orchid by Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim