"Awesome!" A Blog.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Adventures In Text

Like many quasi-computer people my age, I passed whole years at a stretch plumbing the depths of HHGG (remember the silly little gifts that came with it? What were they?), Planetfall, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Zork...the list actually doesn't go on much from there, but indelible marks indeed did those games leave. A couple stale-smelling guys in a dorm room at MIT could combine five or six interesting sentences with a diagram of seventeen rooms and you, the user, would create entire mental worlds in the white-on-black 80-column universe. So spare was the imagery and explanation (it had to be: these came on 128kb floppies, remember) that by the time you wrapped up a successful trip through any one of them, you'd imagined more copy than the combined works of John Irving, only no one would be referring to you as, "a fairly important novelist from New Hampshire" (unless you were, of course, J.D. Salinger, in which case why were you dicking around playing Zork?).

Several years back, a very talented fellow coded a Java-based environment, complete with GUI, in which I could develop a retro-style Achewood text adventure. He was a good man, with the best intentions, and he was magnificent with computers. Unfortunately, I could never install the thing properly, make sense of the user interface, or run it anywhere without a bunch of gray pop-ups saying things about Java and failure. Wherever you are, C., forgive my ineptitude. I hope you were able to use the code in some other way, perhaps to mind your eggs and milk.

It is in that spirit that I put the following query forth to my readership: does anyone know of a good, easy-to-use environment in which to develop interactive text adventures? I stopped programming computers well before the Internet replaced the Vuarnet, and we've been on uncomfortable footing ever since, so it would need to be something which ideally did not expose one to a command line. I mean, of course, in the making of the product — not in the use of it. Funny how that goes.

Please email me with any suggestions. Thank you for any and all, and if I do not reply it is nothing to do with you, but rather because I am a lousy fellow.

(Edit: as of nine hours later, I have about sixty replies, most of which are recommending something called the "Inform-7" interactive fiction platform. Thank you everyone! And here I was, thinking Inform-7 was some sort of Swedish boy band.)