Showing posts from August, 2008


Okay, I just played Portal , which has seen a bit of discussion in the IF world, so it might be interested to comment on it here. Also, this game has been hailed as something that can evoke great emotional responses through effective storytelling and characterisation. This is going to be completely spoilery, so if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read on. The game is certainly too short and too easy; there wasn't a single puzzle in it that had me stumped for longer than a few minutes. The final boss fight was exciting, but not terribly hard either. (F6 and F9 are your friends.) I hope that the advanced maps are more challenging; otherwise, those portals are a brilliant puzzle idea left woefully underexplored. The player character is constantly pestered by a female voice that talks her through the tests, but reveals itself as unreliable in the first thirty seconds. The writing here lacks all subtlety. The voice tells you things like: "Your safety is ensured if you *

Deadborn from the Press

Emily Short points out a problem that is certainly not unique to interactive fiction, but which is more of a problem for us since we cannot afford to lose as many authors as (say) the community of novelists can. She writes: There are lots of good games that don’t get reviewed nearly as much as they should, and authors have drifted away because the amount of response their work received was not enough to keep them interested. IFDB helps a bit, because it provides a low enough barrier to entry for review writing that more people seem to be interested in writing more reviews, and that’s terrific. But there are also still quite a few works that have not gotten the reception they probably deserved. I think this is a serious problem, and it would be very good for our community if we could keep this from happening as often as it presumably does. (If we can, that would also lessen the grip that the IF Competition has on our community.) So, as a very small step in that direction: here is today

Am I a Zinester?

In an article in The Escapist , Anna Anthropy talks about how the makers of big commercial video games can't take any artistic risks and are thus doomed to make more or less the same game forever; and how we are currently seeing the "rise of the video game zinesters ", that is, single, non-professional people who are making video games and giving them away for free just because they do wish to take artistic risks and make themselves heard. Anna Anthropy has chosen me and my game The Baron as poster childs for this movement, which is of course very kind of her and much appreciated. I doubt that it is an honour I really deserve. As Jason Dyer points out , it is hardly new that people use interactive fiction to produce very individual works that would never make the cut as commercial products. Indeed, I think it is accurate to say that of games like Photopia , Galatea and Shade had not existed, I would not have been intrigued by IF and I would never have written The Bar

Rethinking Combat

In Idols of War 0.1, I followed what could be called the "standard model" of text-RPG combat. That model is thus: 1. Pick a character. 2. Have that character take an action. 3. Calculate and apply the results of that action. 4. Pick the next character, and repeat. However, I now think that this might not be the most satisfying form of combat for an interactive fiction. What seems more interesting, both from a gameplay perspective and from the perspective of generating prose, is this: 1. Pick the character with "initiative". 2. Have that character declare an action. 3. Have the other character(s) declare an action. 4. Calculate and apply the results of all these actions. 5. Repeat. The basic scenario I am thinking of is one where you are attacked by the enemy, and then must make one of the following choices: Dodge the attack, minimising the risk of being damaged but also minimising your chance of taking initiative. Parry the attack, moderately decreasing the chance

Spag 52

The 52nd SPAG has just appeared, and it contains three articles written by me: reviews of Gun Mute and Hors Cat├ęgorie , and a long article about Emily Short's Metamorphoses and how it fits into her work as a whole. You can read SPAG here .