SPAGreads: April 2015

Hi folks! Spring is always a busy time in IF, and this year is no exception:

  • Spring Thing 2015 has sprung, with a bounty of works from IF authors new and veteran.
  • The 2014 XYZZY Award finalists have been announced; you can vote until April 25, the awards ceremony is on the 26th, and we encourage you to get involved with both!
  • Speaking of late April: issue 62 of SPAG will come out the week of April 26th. Expect coverage of the XYZZYs, reviews of ParserComp and Spring Thing, features on translation, IF and music videos, and more! We’re very proud of all our contributors and their work. (Want to join them? Email us! Full submission guidelines will run next issue, but if you have an idea you want to happen, let’s talk and make it happen.)

In the meantime, please check out some of the IF-related reads I’ve enjoyed most over the past month.



Andrew Plotkin, “Various World Models in IF,” The Gameshelf

I’ll assert that 75% of the game mechanics in today’s parser IF can be found in Adventure… in rudimentary form, sure, but present. And 75% of the rest can be found in Zork.

That’s the form I grew up playing, and then writing. Not the only form, but the closest to my heart. But — when I build a different kind of game, I’m not trying to approximate parser IF in a different-shaped bottle.

Are you ready for some technical IF talk? Of course you are. This article takes aim at one common IF myth — that parser games are uniquely suited to geography, “rooms” with “objects” and “inventories” and that non-parser games are not — and blasts them to little bitty objects scattered through lots of different rooms located somewhere outside a parser game. Specifically, Plotkin discusses Bigger Than You Think and Seltani, both of which approach the problem of the world model in novel ways.

Laura Hudson on Twiny Jam

I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read on Offworld, which largely covers small, quirky, outre and largely independent games — a field that intersects with IF quite often and quite wonderfully. Here, we have a roundup of Porpentine’s Twiny Jam, a festival for Twine games written with 300 words or left. The IF world has a long tradition of jams and minicomps with such constraints — I’m an admirer of Jack Welch’s TWIFcomp, which restricted authors to 140 characters they gobbled up with aplomb — and it’s a method that wrenches remarkable creativity out of the right writer. In fact, it wrenched creative work out of about 250(!) writers. Where to start? Hudson’s curated seven of her favorites, including takes on Tarot, haiku and escape-the-room.

(Also worth reading on Offworld: Hudson’s feature on interactive-comic-gamebook author Jason Shiga, a name that might be familiar to some of you.)

Atari Podcast, “Interview with Scott Adams

Scott Adams, the author of AdventureLand and several other home-rolled games, is perhaps as responsible for getting the ’80s generation into IF as Infocom. (He’s also responsible for my favorite IF-related anecdote that’s hard to explain to outsiders.) This may not be a read, per se, but it’s great listening for those in the know.

Various, collected by David Fisher: IF Gems

The 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition deadline is… let’s call it looming. If you’re reading this, there’s a moderate chance that you’re working on your own piece, and given human nature and the nature of creativity, there’s a moderate chance that you are horribly, wall-bangingly, paper-crumplingly STUCK. Following are a few pieces, recent and old, to get you unstuck. Though this one’s not a piece per se, rather a scattering of pertinent comments from IF reviews — much like IFwiki’s Past RAIF Comments repository, minus the spam and bones of old Usenet flamewars. For those who find inspiration by serendipity — or engineered serendipity — this could be just the thing.

Danielle Goudeau, “Jump-Starting the Stalled Game,” Choice Of Games

Perhaps you’re the sort of person who best regains inspiration by working on the “inner game,” so to speak — that swamp of inner personal stuff that can either ferment or impossibly mire a creative work. Here’s how one writer overcame it; it has the benefit of an actual published work on the other side as proof.


Emily Short, “WIP Rescue

Then there are the people who best regain inspiration by concrete, practical, carved-from rock if-then solutions. (You might have surmised by the description that I’m one of them.) This piece, by one of IF’s most accomplished and prolific authors, is for you: it presents several reasons — some of which might surprise you — why pieces get stuck, and several solutions for each. Partway through, Short mentions (to dismiss) a “Swiss Army Knife of Universal Puzzle Solving”; this is the Swiss Army Knife of Universal Writer’s Block Disemboweling. It is perhaps the single most helpful IF-writing resource in existence.

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