Believe it or not, there was a time when games comprised of nothing but words dominated the videogame industry. You read paragraph after paragraph as they scrolled down your monochrome CRT, and typed actual words and phrases, like "open mailbox," to tell the game what you wanted to do. It was a different era, to put it mildly, and while the release of Heroes Rise as the first-ever text-only game on Steam probably doesn't herald a return to those glory days, I like to think that it could signal bigger things to come.
Porpentine is a game designer, writer, and curator for freeindiegam.es. She primarily makes Twine games, which are choose your own adventure style games that are accessible, short, and welcoming. You can play them in a browser on your lunchbreak with some headphones on.
But in my mind Porpentine looks like a hot cyberpunk cyborg, eyes aglow, a textual goddess alight with burning fluorescent punctuation. She does not walk anywhere: she glides, riffing in smeared lipstick, sly grin, sylph-like limbs; those she touches have typography bleed up their arms and flash into their bursting hearts. I am Molly from Neuromancer interfacing with her as I listen to percussive pop beats, type questions to her in IM. Gchat is now an early 90s cyberconduit to the Porpentine mainframe. She’s a queer tranarchafeminist, a cyberqueen, a Twine weaver, and so many other things besides. Her tendrils stroke the internet, provoking.
To hear some people talk, it had a decent run before it died. Everyone loved carved stone tablets, until scrolls became the iPads of their day. Later, books picked up the slack. Then came TV and movies, and who’d want to pay to read words after that happened? Yes, they’d have to be a real sucker...
Ahem. The strange situation is that despite the written word getting sadly little respect these days, the average person has never read more. Much of it is short-form, but devices like the Kindle and the iPad have stepped in to make longer reads cool again, and then gone one step further: they’ve helped give birth to a new generation of interactive stories. The text adventure is back.
You are at PCGamer.com. The proud red, black and white masthead hangs to the NORTH. To the SOUTH lie the website credits, which are direly in need of an update (sorry). Directly in front of you is an article about two powerful and user-friendly interactive fiction tools, which have both been released within day of each other. You feel a faint wind upon your face and a strong desire to read the article.
>click on article link
Politics, horror, rampant cloning and a living will – October is off to a very good start. So as you gather the harvest (or pop to Tesco to buy cans of frozen veg), and prepare your costume for Halloween (I'm going as Kay Burley, the fabled Sky News monster), don't forget to unwind with a webgame or two. We've collected the week's best below.
TIGSource have just pointed out that judging has begun for the 2011 Interactive Fiction competition.
There are 38 text adventures waiting to be read. To participate, download all the games in one bumper package (which still only weighs in at 25.6 Mb), download each one individually or play a selection of the games online. Judging is open to anyone until November 15.
Matt Wigdahl's Aotearoa won the 2010 IFComp, so it's probably a good place to start if you need some perspective. You can play it online here.
Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, get ready to READ ARTICLE. (Uh. Like normal.)
Interactive fiction. Text adventures. In the days before graphics, or at least graphics that didn't make you want to poke your eyes out with a spork, they were what transported us into worlds of endless imagination, and even convinced a hitherto sane world that The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy game was anything other than appalling. As technology moved on, they became more and more of a niche genre - but never stopped evolving or being developed. Today, with powerful creation tools like Inform 7 and advanced world simulations on their side, modern interactive fiction is still capable of incredibly fun, very original concepts. Want to see a quick example? Yes? Well, that's lucky!
Here's a quick taste of something only a game without graphics can hope to offer.
Richard Cobbett spends a quiet evening investigating an army of psychopathic ladies who want more than just your planet. People of Earth: Phobos needs talcum powder!
Let's be honest, the main reason that anyone remembers Leather Goddesses of Phobos is because it's called Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Here's a list of game names from 1986. Alex Higgins' World Snooker. Chessmaster 2000. Karateka. Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter. Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Tank Wars. Be honest. Which of those would have jumped out at you on a games shelf back then? It definitely wouldn't have hurt that it was written by Infocom, then-Princes of the text adventure genre, or was written by the main guy behind both the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy game (which was awful, incidentally, no matter how rose-tinted your glasses) and A Mind Forever Voyaging (which was utterly brilliant, and we'll be looking at in this column at some point). This was pre-Leisure Suit Larry too, when the mere idea of a game including (*whisper*) sex seemed daring and new. For many people, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos would be their first time... at least with a computer.
PLEASE NOTE: You must be 18 or over to read this week's Crap Shoot. Don't you dare read on if you're not! Your young mind is not ready for the thrilling sexy adventures that await you!
"They were called 'computer adventure games', and they used the most powerful graphics processor in the world: the human mind." Get Lamp oozes love. A documentary that tells the story of text adventures through the words of the people who made them, it's taken digital historian Jason Scott five years of researching, interviewing, filming, editing and polishing. Finally, the results of his work are available to buy. Check the trailer below.