Interactive fiction was the first great computer-game craze. No graphics, no game controllers, no touchscreens — none of that existed yet. You type a command, and the game tells you what happens next.
These were the triple-A titles of the early 1980s: sophisticated, complex, involving, literate gameplay. Of course, other genres soon came along... but the text games never went away. An Internet community of IF fans picked up where Infocom and the other old companies left off. I'm one of them; I've been releasing indie IF games since 1995.
Now I've started porting my games to the iPhone and iPad. I believe that mobile platforms are the natural home of interactive fiction. Phones and tablets are designed for reading — and IF commands are tweet-sized.
All of my iOS apps are built on a common framework, which includes...
If the idea of interactive fiction is new or strange to you, take a look at this quick reference card. It’s not a complete manual — it’s just a guide to what IF commands look like. Once you get used to the pattern, it’s pretty easy to express what you want to do.
(Click for PDF version of the card. More versions and translations available at the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction. Print ’em out and pass ’em around. Card text by Andrew Plotkin; design by Lea Albaugh; licensed CC BY-SA.)
“Myrmidal is the queen of the bright worlds, and you’ve walked her million cities beneath her sky and beyond it. Myrmidal laughs and Myrmidal dances; they say no one weeps on Myrmidal, except for moments on the stage. But even on Myrmidal the sun rises and sets, and the music grows tinny and harsh when you weary of dancing.”
“Like many of Andrew Plotkin’s games, Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home is beautiful because so alien... The game-play is extremely ingenious at teaching the player to manipulate and appreciate something completely unrecognizable.” — Emily Short at PlayThisThing
Shade is a snack-sized experiment in surrealism and psychological fear. It begins as a classic “room escape” scenario; but that’s not how it ends.
Play Shade if you’re in the mood for a short trip into an uncertain, shifting environment that might just be a nightmare.
“Suffice it to say that it’s extremely well crafted and very, very creepy—this is ‘mess with your head’ IF par excellence.” — Baf's Guide to Interactive Fiction
The Dreamhold is my interactive fiction tutorial game. It’s designed for people who have never played IF before. It introduces the common commands and mindset of text adventures, one step at a time. There’s an extensive help system describing standard IF commands, as well as dynamic hints which pop up whenever you seem to be stuck.
Of course, you can turn off the hints and the tutorials, and play The Dreamhold as a real game. The puzzles are not extremely difficult, but they should offer some challenge to both experienced players and newcomers. (If the challenge is insufficient, there’s an “expert” mode which makes some of the puzzles harder.) There are also many optional bits to explore beyond the main storyline.
I’ve tried to create a game which rewards many species of adventurer: the inexperienced newcomer, the puzzle-hurdler, the casual tourist, the meticulous explorer, the wild experimenter, the seeker after nuances and implications.
I have written many more games than these. I have not uploaded them all as iOS apps, but they are all available as free browser games on the Interactive Fiction page on my personal web site.
(You can install most of these games on your iPhone/iPad by loading them into Frotz, a free iOS IF interpreter.)
Of particular note: