The UK's indie game's event A Bit of Alright happened on Friday. It's a spiritual successor to the World of Love events, but seems to have improved on an already great track record. No longer just a day of stage talks this was a much more chaotic event and all the better for it. From recorder lessons, lemon jousting, and big screen Proteus it was a really fun day out. I've been to a lot of events with some focus on indie games and this has probably been my favourite so far. I do hope we see it again next year.
It's good to talk
I was rather glad to be a part of the programme and gave a brief talk on Interactive Fiction. Specifically I wanted to hilight that as developers we should always be looking to see what the best in our fields are doing and learn from them. When it comes to mixing story and gameplay the interactive fiction writers are doing the best and most experimental work and there's a lot to be learned from what they've accomplished.
For my talk I picked five pieces of interactive fiction I loved and then mercilessly spoiled them for my audience. Sadly this was the only way I could explain why each of them was so interesting. I'm sure eventually the videos from the event will go up and at that point you can see for yourself what I said about them. For now though I figured I'd link to each of them spoiler free so you've got some time to play them for yourself.
Listed in my personal order of preference, favourites first:
Slouching Towards Bedlam by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto
Vespers by Jason Devlin
9:05 by Adam Cadre
The Baron by Victor Gijsbers
Spider and Web by Andrew Plotkin
These should all have a play-online links from their individual pages, or you can download them and run them with an interpreter if you prefer. I thought about giving each game a basic description but if you've got the time it's really better to go into them cold and just discover what they are.
Ideas vs Implementation
At least twice during the day I ended up in conversations about how simple ideas can be taken in very different directions. I always feel like as developers we infuse anything with we do with our own style. A great example of this in interactive fiction is two games that are similar yet could not be more different. Both of these games are made with the limitation that you only have a single move and then the game ends.
Aisle by Sam Barlow takes the single move concept and explores it from a whole range of emotional angles. The game can play out in many different and contradicting ways, it can be a comedy or a tragedy, and it all comes down to a single decision by you.
Rematch by Andrew D. Pontious is probably the single most complicated and devious puzzle I've ever encountered. You have one move and then you die, all you have to do now is figure out the right move to live. Working out the solution not only requires repeated deaths, but even restarting the game to help you piece together all the systems going on. The final solution requires a long and elaborate command.
Going deeper underground
If my talk made you interested in delving even further into interactive fiction, then a good place to start looking for games to play is probably this list of the top 50 IF games of all time (2011 edition). It's been compiled by the IF community and is pretty good set of absolute classics that are worth spending a bit of time with.
A few people asked about making their own text adventures. I'm no expert on this as the few I've tried to code myself have never reached completion. I was involved in a collaborative project that got finished but I didn't do any of the actual coding. Most likely though you're going to want to be working with Inform. It comes in two flavours Inform 6 which is probably the most friendly to programmers, and Inform 7 which uses a natural language coding scheme.