Interactive fiction

I’ve played and enjoyed text adventures since 1980, through the era of Infocom and Magnetic Scrolls up to the resurgence of amateur game writers from the mid 1990s onwards and their rebranding as interactive fiction. I have a particular soft spot for parser-based interactive fiction, where you type a command and the computer responds. But I also enjoy newer approaches, such as web-based stories written in Twine.

I started to write my own text adventures in the mid 1980s, but it was not until I went to university in 1990 to study computer science that I really got the opportunity. My university had a student run MUD or Multi User Dungeon, a multiplayer text adventure, a sort of early precursor of World of Warcraft. I programmed for the MUD, writing quests and other things in LPC, an object-oriented C-based language developed for MUDs. I still have my LPC code from the MUD days, and have experimented converting it into text adventures. More recently I’ve become more interested in writing new interactive fiction parser games. I use the interactive fiction language Inform 7, which has an amazingly powerful development system. It’s also ridiculously fun – writing a game is like playing one.

In the 2018 IF Comp I entered Border Reivers, set in Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders. This historical whodunnit is set in the 1490s, and uses real historical figures to present a flavour of life in this turbulent part of Scotland.

Another competition game I’ve developed is Napier’s Cache, based on a true story in my family history, a hunt for hidden treasure in a remote Scottish castle in the 1590s, featuring mathematician and inventor of logarithms John Napier. An introductory portion of this game was entered in to the 2018 IntroComp, and the finished game is an entry in the 2020 Spring Thing festival of interactive fiction.

At the moment I have various other games in development in Inform 7.

I’ve also written about a number of IF topics on my blog.