Text adventure games were one of the first kinds of computer games ever created. Doubtless some of you recall typing away on your AppleIIe or C64, trying to get that darn Babel Fish puzzle to work. SAVE, UNDO, and RESTORE were the tools of the day, followed closely by such favorites as LOOK, GO NORTH, and KILL TROLL WITH SWORD. The text games of old hold quite a bit of nostalgia value, true, but there's more than just nostalgia to them. Many had in-depth stories, mind-twisting puzzles, and excellent characters; all characteristics which some would say are missing from many of today's games.
But what happened to text adventure games? With the fall of Infocom and the rise of more graphical games, they faded into the background. In fact, they seemed almost dead.
Not so, however. Infocom, in creating their games, had not re-created a parser and associated tools every time. Instead, they had created a virtual machine called the Z-machine, to which they ported their parser code. The Z-machine was reverse-engineered, and compilers for it were created. Suddenly, anyone could create their own text adventure games.
In fact, many do. Last year hosted the Sixth Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. Initially having only twelve entries in its first year, Comp00 had 53 games, and untold amounts of reviews. Other, smaller competitions spring up around the year as well. Such 'minicomps' are often based around a theme, and are an excellent way to enter into the world of interactive fiction.
Anyone wanting to create a game of their own can easily do so: The Inform
game authoring system is based on the very same Z-machine that Infocom used years back. TADS is based on its own virtual machine, but is just as portable as Inform. Other languages include Hugo, ADRIFT, and even old standby AGT. Help with the individual languages are available through their websites, as well as rec.arts.int-fiction, the primary discussion area for the creation of text adventure games.
The people of rec.arts.int-fiction look upon text adventures as not just a romp through a dungeon, but as a means of artistic expression, much like writing itself. Discussions abound about "how realistic" interactions should be, whether certain actions would "break mimesis", and the eternal discussion about what language is the best.
Text Adventure games are far from dead. Instead, they've found their niche; many people are delighted to find that they can go back to the days of Interactive Fiction, and more delighted still to discover that they can create their own. It seems unlikely that IF will conquer other, more popular forms of gaming, but the people who create it aren't looking for world domination, they're just looking to make a good game.
Links of interest include:
> PUT SUBMISSION ON FRONT PAGE
(First taking the submission)
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