Friday Free Stuff: Interactive fiction

07 September 2012

screencap of 'Return to Zork' game
Interactive Fiction (IF) is a cross between a story and a game: you're told where you are and what's going on and then, as the main character, you choose what to do and where to go next. Usually there's a set goal to achieve, but it's up to you to find out how to reach it.

You can find several thousand IF games via the Interactive Fiction Database and either play online or download.

But even more fun than playing IF is writing your own! Two popular authoring systems are TADS (a more code-like system - it compares its language to Javascript and C++) and Inform 7, which you can write in with something much closer to natural language. So if you type in:
The Gazebo is a room. The wood-slatted crate is in the Gazebo.
Instead of taking the crate, say "It's far too heavy to lift."
then a game might start:
A wood-slatted crate is here.
It's far too heavy to lift.
...which is a bit disheartening, but with a little more writing/coding you can make the crate a container that can be opened to find even more possibilities: food? treasure? a secret passage to an underground maze...?

Deborah Fitchett
Liaison Librarian