Ced's Interactive Fiction Page

Not a lot here, really.

Introduction for Authors
Introduction for Players
My IF reviews
My IF &c.

IF for authors

Interactive text is a (relatively) new computer-based medium which allows for multi-layered narratives and multiple storylines. In interactive fiction (IF) the reader (or player) takes decisions on behalf of one or more principal characters; this also affects how the text is experienced.

'Interactive fiction' (IF) as a type of software evolved from puzzle-based 'text adventure games', but now stretches beyond it and also beyond hypertext, and is still developing as artistic medium. During the last 5 years or so it has been becoming increasingly a literary form of entertainment, often completely dropping the 'game' and 'puzzle' elements.

As Douglas Adams put it:

When you are writing a novel, you are aware that you are manipulating your readers. Here you know you are going to have to make them think how you want them to reason. I don't regard it as being an abdication of creative art. Yes, at first I was horrified: in fact, there is a sense in which now the author is even more in control, because the 'reader' has more problems to solve. All the devices of the novel are still at your disposal, because a novel is simply a string of words, and words can mean whatever you want them to. It just offers the opportunity to have a lot of fun.

Characterisation in IF is coming to the fore, and anyone interested in the theory of simulation, particularly of characters, might like to check out the web page of Emily Short. Her Galatea can be played online and is one of the most successful entries so far in annual the IF Art Show. There is a substantial amount of jargon used by IF writers and players, but fortunately there is also a glossary maintained by Dennis G Jerz.

Creating Interactive Fiction using Inform

Making an interactive story requires both good writing skills and good programming skills. If you are a good writer who wants to create IF, but are daunted by the thought of programming, you may find people willing to help at the IF collaboration list or assistance list.

Inform is the most popular system for creating interactive text based on a exploring a 'world model'. It is a computer language not unlike C or Java and its use is extensively documented in two books at the official Inform homepage. Roger Firth's Inform FAQ is also very useful when learning the language. From my site here you may at some point be able to download an Inform system complete with documentation (6.21 compiler for Win32, libraries, IF-IDE 0.72, DM4, IBG1) .

There are three or four other equally good systems. Here are the home pages of TADS and HUGO. Two more systems that may be easier to user for non-programmers are ALAN and ADRIFT although they have some drawbacks.

Many experienced IF authors subscribe to the rec.arts.int-fiction (RAIF) newsgroup. Read the frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) in raif.

IF for players

Looking for completely free downloads of games that are mentally stimulating, imaginative and have satisfying stories? There's a lot on offer, and it's a cheap hobby for anyone with a computer. Most of the software is freeware, which means that it is copyright, but you can play and distribute it for free under certain conditions (e.g. that you don't change it or sell it). However, not everything is like that and it's worth checking the individual licence.

If you want to try it out, why not download Adventure Blaster, which includes Inform (zcode) & TADS interpreters, from this site (2.8M). There are thousands of freeware titles available from the 'IF Archive', which is catalogued at BAF's Guide to the IF Archive. One particular author of high-quality IF to check out is Adam Cadre, and there are also good review sites, such as SPAG and IF Guide.

Most story files need a separate interpreter. If you use Windows, here are instructions for running the two most popular systems. And here are more details for other computers and systems.

My IF reviews

Every year there is an IF competition. Here are my reviews of the entries in 2001 and 2002; and of IntroComp and Spring Comp 2003.

My IF pieces

I have two interactive stories in progress in very unrelated genres. All I have released so far is Source code to any of the above is available on request, but it's all very scrappy. In particular, since it was created for Ben Caplan's minigames minicomp (all entries under 50K), the Hamilton Hall source includes a small and very primitive parser.

Other IF & non-IF frippery

Dozens of users have made technical contributions to the Inform system. I've contributed a couple of library patches and extensions, and am involved in continuing Inform maintenance (see Inform link above). You can also download the latest version of mistype.h, which corrects minor typing errors by the player, and I hope enables Inform files to be more tolerant of varied player input. Here is an earlier, much smaller, version lacking context sensitivity. Here too is seeno.h which changes 'can't see' error messages to specify what can't be seen.

I'm also preserving for posterity something even sillier than my own work. Dan Shiovitz wrote a wacky and hyper bit of SpeedIF You are a Chef!, which was later adapted to an even more wacky and hyper Flash animation, YOU ARE A CHEF!!!!!! (THE MOVIE) by Taco the Wonderdog. It's fun but I must warn you that it makes little or no sense unless you've played the game. Or if you have played it, come to that.

Here are 3 very old non-IF games of mine for MS-DOS, which I don't have anywhere else to put. They are all under 20K and the first 2 need VGA graphics (but not much else).

You can contact me at IFpage at this webdomain
(Sorry this isn't an active link, I'm trying to avoid more spam.)