Wednesday, July 28, 2010

IF News & Dungeon Report

It's been a crazy couple of weeks in IF, and we're expecting several more months of crazy on the horizon.

  • Aaron Reed's book Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 has gone to the printer. You can pre-order it through Amazon. This is an I7 tutorial which concentrates on -- well, as the title says, on creating interactive stories. It's not a programming reference manual, and it assumes no knowledge of programming. I haven't seen this yet but by all reports it is fantastic.

  • Jason Scott's movie GET LAMP has gone to the printer and come back. You can order on the web site. He says that they'll start shipping out next week.

  • The Gameshelf's own Jason McIntosh posted his own IF video... oh, wait. You already saw that.

  • We invited people to get together at MIT and play Zork (the original MIT mainframe version). A whole lot of people did! It was a bunch of fun and we will be continuing the IF-playing series.

  • Some guy named James Mastros implemented GlkNew, a web-based version of my Glk IF-playing interface. I literally had no idea this was going on. This is a play-in-a-web-browser system, but unlike Parchment and Quixe, the game engine runs on a back-end web server. It's a different set of tradeoffs. I haven't played with it much, but I'm happy to see this.

  • IF plans for PAX Prime are coming together. There's one IF panel on the PAX schedule, I believe there will be a GET LAMP reprise, and we'll see the usual list of smaller IF-related events organized by the community. Also as usual, the convention is sold out. If you can't make it, maybe next year in Boston.

IF game release timeline, extracted from IFDB by James Lawton
  • Finally, we have this little graph, courtesy of James Lawton. (Click for full resolution.) James went through all the game data in IFDB, and graphed them by year of release. (All the games that had that information, anyhow -- 3491 of them, as of July 24th.) The circles indicate the number of games released in the IFComp, starting in 1995.

The overall shape is clear; you can see the early years, the mid-80s boom. The tail-off of the commercial companies crosses the rise of the early-90s amateur and shareware community. And then, the modern IF boom of 2000, when the IFComp was really taking off.

You could read the past several years as a discouraging slump. I demur. We discussed this a little on IFMud, and noted some probable causes. Some sources of very small, lightweight IF games -- SpeedIF, ADRIFT mini-games -- have become less popular. More full-length games are appearing. And, we think, IF is spreading into many corners of the online world -- it's no longer concentrated in two newsgroups and an FTP site. So not all new games are appearing on IFDB.

However, these are off-the-cuff guesses. I can't back them up with data. Interested in doing some more IFDB research? Game size, platform, category, new authors vs established names... lots of room for study.

At any rate, 2010 is on track to at least equal 2009. I'm betting it will exceed it once IFComp season hits. Onward.

Comments imported from Gameshelf

James Mastros / theorbtwo (Jul 29, 2010 at 10:37 AM):

Hi! Thanks for mentioning my little project! How'd you find it? It's still very much in it's infancy, so please, let us know any ideas you have for it, and if those ideas come in the form of patches to the C or Perl code at, even better. Don't forget to save early and often. Please, any ideas at all. Really. Let me know what you think.

Andrew Plotkin (Jul 29, 2010 at 3:46 PM):

Someone linked to it on the forum: . I don't know where he found it.

It would be nice to support a "type any URL here to play the game" feature, which Parchment has. Of course that depends on the server's ability to keep up.

It would be possible to use my GlkOte library as a front-end for this (the javascript library that handles the display layer). This might make a tidier interface; I've got the inline command input working. On the other hand, you support images and I don't (yet). Up to you. Feel free to plunder my code for implementation ideas if you want.

matt w (Jul 31, 2010 at 8:28 PM):

Another point about the graph is that the TWIFComp entries aren't (aren't all?) indexed. That's around 50 or 60 more very short lightweight games, which pushes the total way up.

Jason McIntosh (Aug 1, 2010 at 1:11 PM):

Huh, interesting that none of the TWIFComp entries seem to be in the IFDB. (At least, Aaron Reed's winning entry ">" isn't, so I assume no others are either.)

I wouldn't want to put all or even most of them in there, but you could argue for the inclusion of the winners.The contest itself was notable, even if the entries themselves are iffy.

Andrew Plotkin (Aug 1, 2010 at 5:22 PM):

Sure, the TWIFComp entries should be in there. There is no notability criterion -- or if there is, "a game was released in a widely-discussed competition" beats it.

It makes this sort of graph less meaningful, but that means you need better graphs (showing game file size, for example).

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