Get in­ter­ac­tive with your fic­tion

A LOOK AT THE BEST FIN­GER-CLICKIN’ GOOD TEXT ADVENTURES YOU CAN PLAY IN YOUR BROWSER.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ NATHAN TAY­LOR ]

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

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