After ignoring interactive fiction for a couple of months, I’m drifting back in that direction.
The release of the Quixe browser interpreter piques my interest: It’s now possible for casual users to play text adventures in their Web browser even if the game file is large. Parchment has been out for a year or so, but it could load only small-format games. I tend to be verbose.
In-browser play is a nice thing because it eliminates the need to download and install a separate interpreter. Not that that’s a big deal … unless you’re entirely new to playing IF. But if we hope to expand the audience, we have to accept that large numbers of players will be newcomers.
New updates of Inform 7 are appearing on an accelerated schedule, and that’s good news. It’s still an oddball language in many ways, but now the bugs are being fixed more quickly.
Last night I started looking around at casual games, a genre (or medium, or format) that I was only vaguely aware of before. As attractive as some of these games are, and as much fun as it looks to be to design one, I’m not a graphic artist. The wonderful thing about text adventures is that I can deploy my writing and storytelling skills (which are not entirely shabby).
Still, the graphics and oddball gameplay in casual games have me thinking about text games in a slightly different way. I’m wondering what sorts of innovation might be (a) possible and (b) effective.
Innovation has not been absent from IF, certainly. We need look no further than “The Gostak,” which was released ten years ago. My own games have tended (as reviewers have noted) to be “old school.” Not actual cave crawls — I’m not quite that crusty. But the narrative in “A Flustered Duck” was nothing more than a loose framework to hang puzzles on, and the sillier the puzzles, the better. “Lydia’s Heart” is the only game I’ve written that presented a serious story, and even in “Lydia’s Heart” a few of the puzzles got a little wacky (notably the sequence involving the clown). I’m closer in spirit to Terry Pratchett than to J.R.R. Tolkien.
This is not a bad thing. But looking at and critiquing the style of game-play is not a bad thing either.
When even free casual games have 3D animated graphics, what can a text game do to entice and reward the player? Dunno. Interesting question, though.