Get interactive with your fiction
A LOOK AT THE BEST FINGER-CLICKIN’ GOOD TEXT ADVENTURES YOU CAN PLAY IN YOUR BROWSER.
YOU ARE LIKELY to be eaten by a grue. If that phrase means anything to you, then this month’s column is for you! We’ve previously talked about the huge variety of retro arcade and console games you can stream to you PC using just a web browser, but there was a major category we left out: interactive fiction, also known as text adventures.
For old-timer gamers, text adventures were once the bee’s knees. Usually, they had no graphics at all: you would get text descriptions of locations and events, and just typed what you wanted you character to do and hoped that the language parser could understand you. They were awesome, and frustrating, and often insanely difficult.
There is still a notable community of interactive fiction developers around today, and a lot of the older games have also made the transition to web-based applications. So this month, we’re going to take a dive into that world and look at where to find some of the best text adventures you can play online right now.
HOW TO START THE GAMES
Today, most text adventures are not developed or released as executable files that you can just run. They are typically released in a format such as TADS (Text Adventure Development System), Z-Code (for Infocom games) or Hugo that requires an interpreter to play.
So to play a game, you need to load it into an interpreter. There are a number available on the web, but the one we find the most reliable can be found at iplayif.com.
But going to iplayif.com just by itself won’t do anything except give you a link to the Interactive Fiction Database. You have to ask it to play a particular game. And to do that, you type into the browser address bar: http://iplayif.com/ ?story= address of story
...where ‘addressofstory’ is the web address of the interactive fiction file.
For example, a Z-code version of Zork can be found at: http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/ games/zcode/zdungeon.z5 Now, if you take this URL and feed it to iplayif.com like so:
http://iplayif.com/?story=http://www. ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/ zdungeon.z5 ...then you’ll see Zork start to play in your browser. Cool, huh? Of course, it’s easier to just go to pre-made links rather than make your own. And that’s where the aforementioned Interactive Fiction Database comes into play. It’s a huge database of interactive fiction, new and old.
Head to ifdb.tads.org in your browser to visit it. There are thousands of interactive fiction titles hosted and linked from here, and it includes web links to online players like iplayif.com as well.
Finding stuff can be unwieldy if you don’t have a specific title you’re after. We’d start with ‘Browse lists’ and look for the Top 100 list. Of course, if you know
what you’re after, you can just type the name of the game in the search bar (we should note that the site does not host copyrighted content, so if you’re looking for most of Infocom’s catalogue, for example, you’ll have to look for another site).
Once you find a title you’re interested in, click on it. You’ll see on the top right that there will be a Play On-line link. Click on that link and it will take you to iplayif.com or a similar site with the link already filled in for you.
Zork playing through iplayif.com