Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interactive Fiction

Interactive fiction (IF): yes, those text adventure games of the past with their twisty-passages . IF is a story with a puzzle in which the reader/player participates in the outcome. Less literate, graphical adventure games nearly choked text games out of existence, but the Internet provided a nesting ground where this game genre could renew itself with new authoring tools and enthusiasm.

Many authoring tools are free. Though a little geeky, the tools are accessible to many and on about any OS. The author creates the work and puts it an interpreter wrapper (such as a blorb or Zcode) so that any compliant player (such as Frotz) can play the work. (I didn't make this up.)

Inform is one of the major providers of authoring tools. The stalwart Inform 6 has a procedural programming language with a long history. The newer Inform 7 has a new natural language that non-geeks might warm up to.

Using Inform 7, you define your world, characters, locations, objects, movements, and events using English-like phrases: Miss Pelling is a person. Miss Pelling wears a black hat and a red dress. The basement is a room. The basement has a broadsword. A broadsword is a type of weapon. Many share their inventions (such as a complete description of an animal or place) in the form of an extension to Inform. Emily Short has a treasure trove of information and sample games; she worked closely with the author of Inform.

My personal interest is to create a simple game that is really an interactive fiction reader (an eBook reader) for more traditional but interactive stories, as might be done with web (hypertext) fiction. The writer would use built-in features to add constraints or features to her story with which the reader may tune the story to taste, such as less/more/minimum/maximum violence, darker to lighter storyline, alternate endings, movie-like ratings, etc. Other authors could add extensions as needed because the language is self-defining.

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