You know, considering I haven’t really done anything in the realm of interactive fiction since about 2009 — with minor exceptions — I write about that particular genre a lot. Partly it’s nostalgia, and the friends I made over time. But mostly it’s because the gaming industry spent the past 18 years or so advancing graphics technology, while text adventure authors were busy perfecting things like puzzle design, map construction, story structure, NPC interaction, natural language processing… All those unglamorous tasks you can’t brag about in numbers, but which make or break a game to a much higher degree than “ZOMG! It’s running in 4000×4000 at 240fps! It requires four graphics cards linked together and cooled with liquid helium!”
And that’s why I have a whole bunch of interactive fiction links again.
Felix just wrote a post on Seltani and its work to create a more accessible MUD experience.
There is another project which has similar aims, but more indirectly. It’s aimed at the developer who wants to customize their MUD completely, using a language that offers quick development: Python.
It’s called Evennia, and it brings a host of game-changers (pardon the pun) to the table.
I don’t care for puzzles, as for stories, suffice to say that I play text adventures (and many videogames) mainly for the joy of inhabiting a virtual world which I can explore and play around in. That’s also why I was attracted to MUDs, the text adventures’ multiplayer cousins. It’s an amazing feeling, being able to not only play with your friends in a fantasy world, but to build that world piece by piece from within even as you play.
But MUDs suffer from the same problem as text adventures, namely that nowadays most computer users have been educated to fear command lines, not to mention equate videogames with flashy graphics. Moreover, as the Web has pretty much subsumed the Internet, to the degree that many don’t realize e-mail exists outside the browser, explaining to potential players why they have to download a dedicated client can be hard. And putting a command line inside a webpage comes with its own set of issues.
I’ve always been a sucker for the written text, ever since I’ve learn how to read (sometime between the ages of 4 and 5). Oh, I’d watch a movie or two with starry eyes, but then I’d always return to reading books. No wonder, then, that nowadays I am fascinated by text-based computer games. You know, those things many people believe to be a thing of the past. (Which isn’t exactly true: roguelikes are alive and well, interactive fiction is experiencing a revival, and even MUDs are doing fine.)
But I never realized just how important they were in the history of computer games until I tried to draw the diagram below. Count the bold items: