Thursday, December 3, 2009

IF activity at PAX East -- now with info!

I said a few weeks ago that interactive fiction stuff "will happen" at the Penny Arcade Expo East (Boston, March 26-28).

This past weekend PAX sent out a call for speakers and panel discussions. Some of us IF folks started emailing back and forth. We currently have three suggestions submitted to the PAX events site. I've listed them below.

Before I get there, let me say that this is not an exclusive list. The names attached to these panels are simply the people who were in that email discussion. If you're an IF author, current or erstwhile, submit more events! Or register as a panelist for IF-related sessions. And comment here, so we know what's going on. I intend to sit in on every IF-related event at the conference.

(A suggestion: include the phrase "interactive fiction" -- not just "IF" -- in the event title. We'd like all of these events to jump out as clearly related on the schedule.)

We'd like to make this PAX a focal point for IF activity, education, promotion, and all-round chin-wagging. For a start, Jason Scott is saying that he's keen to premiere Get Lamp there...

Obligatory note: these are submitted ideas, not scheduled events. The PAX people have not told us whether they are going onto the schedule, in this form or with alterations. I don't expect those decisions to come out until January. I'll post when I hear from them.

So you haven't played any interactive fiction since Zork?

Text adventures didn't go away in 1990. They just went indie. Join us as we whiz through the past two decades of IF history. Then we'll present two recent games that are intended for IF newcomers: "The Dreamhold" and "Blue Lacuna". (Andrew Plotkin, Aaron Reed)

Storytelling in the world of interactive fiction

Text adventures have been quietly experimenting with narrative gaming for thirty years. Five authors from the amateur interactive fiction community discuss the design ideas in their games -- reordered storylines, unreliable narrators, deeply responsive NPCs -- and how they apply to other kinds of games. (Rob Wheeler (mod.), Robb Sherwin, Aaron Reed, Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin)

Rule-based programming in interactive fiction

Inform 7 is a modern text-adventure design language based on two controversial principles: natural-language source code, and rule-based declarative programming. Andrew Plotkin digs into the rule programming model, why it exists, where it might go, and why it kicks OO's butt.

(You might recognize that last as the talk I gave at Penguicon last May. Yes, I want to reprise it for PAX. Apologies to the ten or so people who saw it there -- you'll just have to come back and cheer for me.)

Comments imported from Gameshelf

Jesse (Dec 4, 2009 at 12:01 AM):

The first two sound great. The last one sounds a little too technical for this event, though. PAX '09 had plenty of panels on game design, but not about particular tools or programming paradigms: the audience seems to be gamers and some aspiring game developers, not so much programmers and active developers.

Alan Schmitt (Dec 4, 2009 at 3:14 AM):

These sound very interesting. Would there be the slightest chance that some of these presentations be recorded?

Jason McIntosh (Dec 4, 2009 at 10:35 AM):

I look forward to trying to talk you into screening part of the next Gameshelf episode as part of the first talk. :)

Hmm... not IF, but I have a panel idea about my adventures as an indie game-media person, and now I'm wondering if just screening the Diplomacy episode might itself be a suitable panel...

Stephen Granade (Dec 4, 2009 at 11:01 AM):

Is there interest in trying to whomp up another panel discussion of some aspect of IF, like meaningful choices in IF or NPCs and conversation? I'm leaning towards attending and am all about talking about IF.

Andrew Plotkin (Dec 4, 2009 at 11:06 AM):

Jesse: I know big chunks of the Boston game-developer crowd (both industry and indie) are planning to show up. I'm sure they'll be a minority of the N-ty thousand attendees, but it's still worth doing, I think.

(Naturally the PAX people may disagree.)

Alan: Yes, there is a chance. I say this because I have no idea. :)

Jason: A lecture plus two games is pushing the limits. I don't think there will be room for video-juggling -- sorry! (I'm assuming one-hour time slots.)

Suggest a new event...

Andrew Plotkin (Dec 4, 2009 at 11:08 AM):

Stephen: Please go for it. :)

Andrew Plotkin (Dec 4, 2009 at 11:46 AM):

Got confirmation that everything is one-hour time slots (meaning 50 minute events and ten minutes of downtime).

Rubes (Dec 4, 2009 at 12:02 PM):

Wonderful! I think you'll all do a much better job than I did at the Austin conference, and the first two ideas should go over well. Two thoughts: I would try to sexy up the title of the first one, and for the second one, it might be tough to get five panelists all involved for a 50-minute discussion. I would really like to see both talks, though.

Andrew Plotkin (Dec 4, 2009 at 8:00 PM):

Hey, that is my sexy title! Originally it was "The history of amateur interactive fiction" or something equally dull.

My experience from SF cons is that a five-person panel fits in an hour, if the moderator keeps things moving along. More than five gets hairy.

Matt Weiner (Dec 6, 2009 at 5:07 AM):

Sexy title suggestions: how about "Beyond Beyond Zork: The Return of Interactive Fiction"? Or "Not Just Text Adventures Anymore: The Return of Interactive Fiction"? I don't know how colons go over, though; I'm an academic so they feel natural to me. Which may suggest that you don't want to take suggestions from me about sexy titles.

Jim Munroe (Dec 6, 2009 at 9:57 AM):

I'm thinking about going, and I think it'd be good to do a panel called "Stuck! Approaches To Unsticking Your Player". I've been thinking about it in relation to the IF I'm writing now but it's something that is a graphical adventure game concern too. I'm going to see if the designers of Machinarium and Nanobots are going. If people have suggestions for panelists please let me know.

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