I’ve been playing Hadean Lands by Andrew Plotkin, a parser-based interactive fiction game that I backed on Kickstarter in 2010. It was just released; almost four years is a long time to wait for an IF game, but with this game’s complexity I can understand what took so long.
The game is an exploration of alchemical processes. It follows the tradition of steampunk and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, among others, by examining a society in which a form of magic exists from a speculative fiction perspective: it’s set on a “marcher,” an alchemical spaceship, where you are a mysterious “swabbie” after a mysterious accident. At the same time, it’s a stunningly well-implemented work of IF programming.
Continue reading Hadean Lands
Right on the heels of my last release, here’s my April game, The Bryant Collection. This one is a bit of a cop-out; it’s not actually my game. Instead, it’s a translation of someone else’s work into interactive fiction.
An excerpt from my release post on RGIF:
A few months ago, I found an old strongbox at a garage sale. The box was full of papers written by a woman named Laura Bryant. The majority of the stuff in the box was a collection of what she called “story worlds.”
These story worlds are akin to interactive fiction or roleplaying games; they’re designed for one player and one mediator who serves as the parser or the game master. The earliest date on a story world in the box is 1964, which means these works predate Crowther and Woods’s Adventure, Dungeons & Dragons, or Wesely’s Braunstein. The Bryant Collection contains the five stories that I found the most interesting and feasible to convert to IF:
- “The End of the World” is a story about lunch.
- “Morning in the Garden” is a story about dealing with annoying people.
- “Tower of Hanoi” is a rather interesting little puzzle, but not what you think. It came with a sort of feelie in the strongbox, which is included as an IF object.
- “Going Home Again” is a story about growing up.
- “Undelivered Love Letter” is a story about airports.
Download The Bryant Collection.
For more information, including links to interpreters that will run the game, see the game page.
In my last podcast, I didn’t even bring up interactive fiction, which suffers from genre staleness as much or more than other types of games. If you have a text game, you’re almost guaranteed that you’ve got a nonviolent, turn-based game where you solve puzzles in a game with a specific sort of world model. Sure, there are a few exceptions: C.E.J. Pacian‘s Gun Mute, Robb Sherwin‘s Necrotic Drift, and Adam Cadre‘s Lock & Key, to name a few. But by and large, interactive fiction is cerebral and derivative of the seminal works: Colossal Cave Adventure, Zork, and Graham Nelson’s Curses.
Where is the interactive fiction that simulates colonizing space? Where are the text games that have the same playful feeling as Katamari Damacy? Why are text adventures always either puzzle-filled exploration games or highbrow, slow-paced stories?
I’m being a bit cruel, I think. But I still can’t think of a single piece of interactive fiction that I’d pick up and play for fun after finishing it once. There’s no gameplay to most IF except puzzle solving and figuring out what happens next. A good friend of mine once pointed out that in interactive fiction, you never really do stuff.
I’d like to see that change.