You find yourself in a bright and airy living room, dominated by a large polished table with a laptop and heaps of scribbled notes on it. The display shows an enigmatic lettering:
West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.
- Zork 1 -
Heya, it's text adventure!
Yes, text adventure is still alive. And more: it has grown up. It started as a simulated cave-crawl (The Colossal Cave Adventure) and has developed into a medium for the whole variety of narrative genres including old-style adventure as well as romance, gothic novel, science-fiction, crime, historical fiction, satire and surrealistic vision. The thing in common is interaction: you, the reader, or 'player', are part of the story, which keeps unfolding while you type in commands.
But it's just words, after all. Why not simply read a book?
Good question. What fascinates me about the format, apart from the sheer fun of it, are the possibilites it offers to the ways of story-telling. It's inspiring. Non-linear stories, for instance, can develop in a natural way which is hard to achieve in a book, given the intrinsically linear nature of books. (I am not saying that linearity is in any way inferior to non-linearity, but that the confinements aren't nearly as prevalent). Also, a story can have multiple branchings and endings, depending on decisions the player makes in the course of events (e.g., whether she decides to be a decent or a mean character, or a brave or a cowardly person). Or, non-player-characters can behave in different ways, depending on how the player approaches them. And more. A lot of experimental work is going on, and there is still much to be explored.
Do I have to pay for it?
No. Modern IF (with very few exceptions) is no longer commercial as text adventures were. Authors share their works and resources freely. You can even write your own interactive stories - in fact, you are very much encouraged to do so. Everything you need is readily available for download, and you will find an extremely friendly and helpful community on the web.
Ok, show me something!
If you are new to IF, getting the material together may appear awfully
complicated at first sight. It isn't, really, once you know where to look (see
the links page). But just in case, here is a little
package with a story and an interpreter for Windows, so you can give it a try
immediately without having to look any further. The story is Photopia by
Adam Cadre, an American writer. It is short, so you can play through it in about
half an hour, though you may want to enjoy it at a much slower pace. It is
almost puzzle-free, so you need not fear to get stuck at any point (but to make
sure, I have also included a walkthrough).
All you have to do is:
- download photopia.zip (846KB),
- unzip it,
- enter the folder and open photopia.z5 with Frotz.exe, the interpreter (no need to install anything). Or launch Frotz.exe and open photopia.z5 in it. There you go.
For other platforms than Windows, get your interpreter version here (on the left hand side).
In the beginning, when asked 'Would you like color?', you should answer 'yes' or 'y', as colours are part of the story (without being mandatory). After that, you will be asked 'Would you like instructions?', to which you should also answer 'yes' if you are unfamiliar with IF. Adam gives a short introduction into the way IF is 'played'.
Initially, you will very likely not understand what's going on. You will as you play along, and I hope you will like the story as much as I do.
For more help, see the Beginner's guides for playing IF section on the links page.
And now, enjoy!