Mid-July Link Assortment

IF Comp 2016 is open for entry.

New Releases

From Christopher Huang, we had the small mystery puzzler Mustard, Music, and Murder. B Minus Seven released At Anchor, a brief and poetic story about searching a beach for items.

I’ve also been hearing good things about Open Sorcery, a sizable Twine game from Abigail Corfman that came out in May. One version is free, but there’s a larger, more expanded version for iOS or Android that you can buy.

Meanwhile, the Texture IF tool has a significant update and now has a library of available works and a number of improvements. The library includes new work from Jim Munroe, Robert Yang, and Jake Elliott. And if your tastes run more to inkle’s tool ink, the new inky project provides an editor for working with that system.

The Willow Effect is a PC-only IF game (so I haven’t tried it). It’s currently gathering support on Steam Greenlight, though the game is also already available on itch.io.

images-across-a-shattered-sea-stewart-c-bakerImages Across a Shattered Sea is new from Steward C. Baker on Sub-Q Magazine, though reprinted from Writers and Illustrators of the Future 32. Unless I’m misunderstanding (conceivable!), the original version was non-branching text, and that it has been reworked for Twine: in the current version, it’s structurally an unfriendly gauntlet until the final act, when there are branches leading to two more fully-fleshed outcomes.

It’s an interesting piece for several reasons, but one is that it reads very much as something that comes from the genre expectations of SFF publishing, rather than from the genre expectations of traditional or Twine IF. The first several pages are about setting up the rules of this universe, in order to then explore what they can do.

Coverage

It’s been a good time for IF coverage. Here’s Extreme Tech on the Hadean Lands release, and Rock Paper Shotgun on Killing Time at Lightspeed (not from me!).

Impish Words, Spirited Games is a Facebook page devoted to IF news, if you like following this kind of thing on FB.

BlogHer interviews Melissa Ford about her book introducing Twine for younger writers. Meanwhile, Anna Anthropy has written a kids’ book introducing Twine and other game-making tools; Kill Screen has an interview with her about the project.

Craft

This ctrl500 post on cyclical patterns in dungeon design has some techniques that work for traditional IF maps and multiple-solution puzzles as well.

Related Disciplines

Here’s a review of a tabletop version of an escape room. This sounds slightly strange — the sense of immediate presence is essential to what escape rooms are about, generally — but it sounds potentially entertaining.

Jim Munroe on Texture and “Pretty Sure”

Texture is a tool for choice-based interactive fiction, but one with explicit verbs rather than simple links in the text. Designed to feel natural on touch screen devices as well as in the browser, it lets you drag a verb from the bottom of the screen and position it over one or more hot spots in the text.

Here I’ve dragged a “remember” tag to hover the highlighted “your son” text, constructing my own command:

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 9.34.38 AM

A beta version of Texture has been around for a while – I first wrote about it in late 2014, and Jim Munroe and Juhana Leinonen have been working on it on and off since then. But that early version was still lacking a number of features. The new iteration is much more complete, both in terms of what the tool can do (better handling of variables and lasting state from page to page) and as a player-facing experience. The new version launched with a small but impressive library of titles, with new works from Jim Munroe, Robert Yang (who has often starred here before), and Jake Elliott (Kentucky Route Zero).

Jim’s big contribution is Pretty Sure, a short story about parenting: I would say a science fiction story, and there are science fictional elements, but it’s really mostly a story about human interactions and responsibilities. Jim was kind enough to talk with me about the making of Pretty Sure and the design decisions that went into it.

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Mustard, Music, and Murder

PeterkinCoverChristopher Huang’s Mustard, Music, and Murder is a less intricate construction than his previous, highly randomized detective puzzler An Act of Murder, but it’s likely to appeal to many of the same players.

Mustard is a bite-sized mystery IF set after WWI, where the central challenge is to work out the alibis of various office workers who might have committed a murder.

In the rather artificial mode of traditional logic puzzles, the characters turn out to have interacted in neatly quarter-hour chunks, so you need to interview everyone and then work out the resulting schedule to find out who could possibly have been alone at the right time. But as with An Act of Murder, realism isn’t precisely the point here. Instead, the game feels a bit like an early Lord Peter short, offering fifteen minutes’ worth of deduction in a cozy 1920s setting. The environment is implemented fairly lightly to avoid red herrings, but includes several entertaining surprises.

Mustard, Music, and Murder includes a hint system that will step you through the solution if need be, so there’s no chance of being stuck, but I didn’t need to rely on that too heavily.

Huang is also crowdfunding a novel about Peterkin, the game’s protagonist, and his fondness for this period and genre shine through.

End of June Link Assortment

June 30, Introcomp intent deadline. You have just a few hours to register your intent to enter this year’s Introcomp, a chance to get your game introduction in front of a bunch of players and collect their feedback.

July 3, Oxford, the Oxford/London Meetup is doing a WIP exchange to share and critique one another’s work. The RSVP list is currently full, but if you join the waitlist you’ll be notified if a spot becomes available. (These sessions need to be pretty small to be effective, hence the low ceiling.)

July 9, the SF Bay Area IF group meets.

I’ll be in Hong Kong, Kyoto, Tokyo, Honolulu, and Seattle over the course of late July/August. If you’re in one of those places and think it would be useful to meet and talk, drop me a line. My time is not unlimited, but as always I’m happy to try to set things up where useful.

Sept 17 (well into the future, but worth knowing in advance) there’s an all-day Roguelike Celebration event that might be of crossover interest to IF folks, especially if you like procedural generation or procedural narrative. Nick Montfort will be speaking.

Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation Launch

Today is the launch of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (main website here). This is a non-profit, fundraising body in a position to do things like

  • provide long-term stewardship of important IP assets and infrastructure
  • raise (tax deductible!) funds for critically important developments such as Twine

I know this may sound rather dull and legal, but it is in fact very important. A lot of fundamental assets of the interactive fiction community, from the IF Archive to the various coding tools, have survived on quiet individual support — but no one person is able to provide support indefinitely. IFTF will be in a position to receive rights assignments and look after some of these projects. And some things, like Twine itself, perform their mission effectively only by being freeware, but would benefit from financial support from those in a position to offer it.

Then there are plans like this:

IFTF intends to create a program during the coming year that will help identify ways to bring popular IF platforms up to modern accessibility standards. We will assist projects in implementing these improvements, and create permanent accessibility guidelines for future IF work.

Again, accessibility is important, but often individual authors don’t have the skills or resources to make sure they’re meeting accessibility standards. This is a good work, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

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