Friday, December 30, 2011

End of Year Update

It's been a while since I've taken some time to post here, so I figured that I would get one more up before the end of the year. This blog is 2 months shy of being a full year old now and I hope to keep with it for some time to come.

2011 has been a fairly interesting year. I completed my first interactive fiction and entered it into Spring Thing, completed a much more polished version of that and released it to my website, and also began 2 new projects. I've become a lot more comfortable with Inform7 which I started learned a bit over a year ago. I do hope to learn more about other IF programming languages in the future though.. TADS, Adrift, Hugo, and Quest. So far I've only tinkered around a bit in Quest. Playing games written in the other three, I've noticed interesting different aspects to each.

I haven't quite decided on the final title of my recent science-fiction IF, but I can say that it's coming together quickly now. The story itself, the table of events so to speak, and the puzzle are all pretty much complete. I just need to spend a few more hours coding it all in I7 and playing around with it before releasing a test version. The source code of this project is much neater and easier to work with than the extremely long (albeit and also sloppy) source code that became Hallow Eve. This is due to having less than 5 total rooms, few characters, and less free range random problem-solving. It's also a short game in general.

The "interactive dreaming" game should be taken off the backburner around late February. The length of delay for the release of it will be dependent on how soon I can get out and take a few more photographs I need for the game. If it's well received, it may become part of a series. As of now I'm unsure how long it will be. It looks like I could get a lot of use out of the puzzle and travel framework if that's what I wanted to do, however it's still completely untested by anyone but me.

If anyone would like to test the science-fiction game beta that should be done in three to four weeks, leave me a comment or something and I'll shoot you a copy. See you next year!

Friday, November 11, 2011

IF Comp 2011

Here are a few short reviews for the IFcomp games I've played this far. Some mild spoilers may be present.


This game was an interesting premise to me. In it you actually play a blind person. While I myself am not blind, I did have an eye injury some years back that left me temporarily blinded for a few days. During those few days I learned to do quite a few things differently to compensate. I wondered if that painful experience would come in handy playing this. Also, I do hope to read a review by someone who has played this game who has been blind all or most of their life. I would be interested in that perspective of their experience playing it.

Sometimes I'm allowed to 'look' at some objects though, which tells me that looking wasn't completely eliminated (but probably is useless). Then I find that using 'f' does not always print all of the room contents, so I turn on verbose mode. Also, 'look' and 'f' produces different texts, which is kind of confusing. I think the author should have done a bit more to remove any references to sight. Right off the bat my movement and progress is very constricted. I needed a couple of hints at the beginning of the game to get out of the first room.

Bah, I think I'm stuck again. A hint tells me to set up a trap basically, though I don't have any real strategic reason for doing this yet in my mind unless I'm going to camp out in this room.  As far as puzzles go, I'm more of a "let's just play around until I have to deal with something" kind of player. Doing another feel around the room once the trap is set returns a strange bit of text. I don't think something should seem to be somewhere if I actually put it there myself.

This game has a lot of items (and benches in one room). There are also has inventory limits. I came across quite a few scenery things noted in the room summaries that should have produced some sort of text. However, I was able to look past these flaws because I found the setting to be interesting. In the garage, if you type "open door" there is no "garage" option, while "open garage door" returns that the door is locked.

This game apparently has many endings. I think I probably saw the weakest one. Hmm. Now I am interested in playing this game again with no hints, though I don't think I'll get around to that until there's a new version.



"A game of postapocalyptic relaxation" it's called. Sounds like Fallout. The first screen has a difficulty setting. I chose normal. I started out in a run-down supermarket, checking things out while scavenging a few items. My first mission is to find someone, anyone to talk to. After figuring out how to break out of my refuge, I set out into the world. Exits all seem to be clearly marked thus far.

My exploration stroll didn't last long. Soon a pack of dogs was stalking me. I tried to hit the dogs with a pole I found laying around, but somehow the pole "bounces of the pack of dogs" so I had to restore and find a different solution. After restoring, I do my best to avoid the dogs because I'm still unsure how to deal with them. Of course, eventually they find me. I eat something to reduce my stress level a bit.. but the growling dogs increase my stress to the limit. Game over again. This game could probably benefit from either a numerical amount of your current stress level to be added to the status bar, or some sort of graphical meter. The "mood" label isn't informative enough to me. Please include more understanding for your nouns as well.

Then I find a way to deal with the dogs, but only temporarily. I get stressed out again and lose. I'm a little annoyed now. For now I'm putting this aside, and will save a rating for if and when I complete it.



After a short introduction, the game starts quickly. The first few puzzles were easy yet fun to solve. Then, I get to a series of of puzzles. The short one isn't too bad. Then I get to the medium one. The error sound drives me nuts as I move the O around a few times, and I give up on this one too.



Honestly, I was hoping this game took place in Santa Land theme park. Some of my family has been there a few times, though I have never been. I've only seen the pictures. At any rate, I did like the general premise and plot of the game. The environment was pretty well fleshed out. The only thing was that I just couldn't really get into the puzzles, so I resorted to the walkthrough. Perhaps I'll return to this game when the Christmas theme of the puzzles interests me more one holiday season.



Argh, give me some exits listings here. Don't just make me try random moves to see if I will advance. The story seems ok so far, even if it moves along a bit too quickly. I run into an NPC with a suspicious name, "greengrocer". I guess the author doesn't know the printed name trick yet.  I attempt to talk to him, and I'm told that "I don't need to converse in this story." That's kind of a let-down. Just when I don't know what to do, a "wait" followed by a "look" advances the story. It's hard to get too peeved about that sort of pacing issue when previous versions of my own first game suffered from extremely bad pacing. Short game and I didn't care for the puzzles.



I'm moving along looking for something, when I find something else. Everything important in the game with some importance can be read about in a book of fairy tales that you carry along with you. Not a lot of "guess the verb" stuff happening here. This game was very short and there really isn't a lot to it. I easily completed it in about 20 minutes without a walk-through. That being said, there's not a lot wrong with it either.



Writing style seems a little odd. I'm forced to use the names of the parts of the ship to move around instead of compass directions. After playing about ten minutes I think I have a pretty good idea of what my first task will be. Nothing I try seems to get anything done, so I turn to the walk-through only to find that it isn't a walk-through at all. It's the full text of his source. Immediately quit playing.



This web-based game was easy to get into despite it's weird and random environment. I'm not sure how I feel about the interaction system, as it feels like I'm just clicking on random hyperlinks without putting a lot of thought into things to keep the story moving along. However, I find quick that there is just a little more to it. If I just randomly click things, the story ends up looping around and repeating. I end up looking at the hints after a while and a couple of the required actions to make the game progress have me scratching my head as to why the player would even think to do something.

Couldn't finish this either. Even following the hints. I think a major drawback to this game is the very strict time constraint.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Hallow Eve 2.0 Released

It's finally done! Just in time for a bit of Halloween fun, the final version (2.0) of Hallow Eve has been released. 

You can play the game and see all the extras on my website here. Note that this page will have a couple of minor edits added this evening.

Also, I'm told the IF Wiki entry for the game should be updated fairly soon.

Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hallow Eve 2.0 Almost Ready For Testing

(From Vault of Horror #15 - 1950)

Today I will be bringing down all of the Halloween decorations from my attic, so I thought it would be fitting to blog about my holiday-themed IF. I will be sharing the current build of the Hallow Eve with a few play-testers around the night of the 15th. If they have time to give the game an hour or two worth of testing within about a week and a half, I should be able to have the finishing touches done by October 31st. 

In the meantime while they are doing the testing, I hope to complete a couple of other additions to the game. This should include slightly improved cover art, better general instructions, and maybe a hint menu for those that don't want to look at the walk-through. I will also include a map of all 46 rooms. I would like to not only include a scan of the development map I made on graph paper, but if I have time I will also make a fancier version that would make a good print-out. I had wished to include these things in the original release of Hallow Eve I submitted to Spring Thing 2011, but I was a brand new IF author at the time and really had no realistic concept of what I could achieve and polish before my deadline was up. The source code also needs a bit cleaning up if I am going to release it. It's bad enough that I find it a bit embarrassing now that I know more about programming with Inform7. The main thing is that the current state of the code is still quite sloppy.

I'm currently about 90% done with this revision. I just need to spend a little more time checking the timing of events and adding my fixes. With the new version, I am trying to address just about every issue that reviewers picked out in the Spring Thing entry. Hallow Eve 2.0 still starts off a bit slow. However, some time-jumps have been put in place and now a huge chunk of the time waiting for things to happen near the beginning of the game is "on the rails". This means that the game will move along regardless of player action for a bit, while the player enjoys a situation similar to a haunted trail.

If anyone else has interest in testing the current build of the game sometime after this Saturday night, shoot me an email to jizaboz (at) as soon as you have a chance and I will put you on a mailing list. To anyone else reading this who is looking around for some Halloween-themed interactive fiction to play but isn't interested in testing, I encourage you to try the work of other authors already released and to wait for version 2.0 of Hallow Eve. It should be a more enjoyable experience than 1.0. That is... unless you hate Friday the 13th movies.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Sci-Fi IF Started

(old NASA public domain image)

About a week ago, I finally decided to give the Quest interactive fiction creation system a try. I think it's a fairly nice system. Creating a simple adventure in it is pretty easy. While thinking of a short "test story" to create within the system, I remembered an idea I had years back of a stage play of sorts I had thought up involving 2 astronauts stranded on another planet. After about two hours of fiddling with creating this in Quest, I decided that I could probably code the desired effect better and faster within Inform7. With that decision made, I ported all of my existing text into Inform7. I haven't completely abandoned Quest, but right now it just isn't a system that will suit what I'm trying to do any easier or more effective than I7.

Two other works of IF come to mind in this genre: Fragile Shells by Stephen Granade, and an old game called Stranded (a game with the same title was also released in 2001 about being on an island) and another game for Commadore 64 that I watched a play-though of on YouTube. Stranded is a very short game with graphics. It borrows a lot of concepts from the Dr. Who television series and has more rooms than I would want to implement for my own sci-fi IF. Fragile Shells is set in a space station and there isn't any NPC interaction (or graphics), instead relying on excellent descriptions and puzzles to move the game along.

The working title of this new sci-fi IF is "Stranded on the Moon", though that is subject to change. Although the setting is very desolate, NPC interaction should prevent the game from feeling too "empty". Along for this ill-fated journey is another astronaut named John, who may not handle a chaotic and isolated situation as well as you. There is a heavy theme of "what if" at play, as this is science fiction. What if man never set foot on the moon until the year 2050? Could the lethality of the lunar surface be underestimated? What else could be there waiting for us? I think such a setting would not only be fun to create, but also fun to play.

At this point I now have three interactive fiction works in progress. The new project, the "final version" of Hallow Eve, and my Interactive Dreaming project. I'm still set to release Hallow Eve by October 31, 2011 and I hope to get a couple of beta testers to try that out around October 15th. I plan on cramming a lot of work into that next week... as much of it is basically grunt work and bug-fixing. Interactive Dreaming contains quite a bit of media and is still in a experimental stage. I may be entering that into Spring Thing 2012. This new sci-fi game will also be a bit experimental but will also be very short. I hope to keep it in the Z5 (short, text only) standard. It will not be entered into any competition. Instead, I will just release it along with the source code when it is completed and tested.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Comparing Other Interactive Dreams

Today I was on the IFDB and did a search for the term "dream", looking for other games within the "interactive dreaming" theme. On the second page of the search results I came across a game called Dreadwine by Eric Eve. Dreadwine was submitted to a small competition that I had never previously heard of called IF Dreams. I decided to play all 3 games in the IF Dreams 2006 McDream Minicomp to see how they compare with how my newest interactive fiction project.

All three games in this competition were quite different from each other in terms of how the games flowed. I found The Retreat by J.D. Clemens to not feel very dream-like at all. In contrast No Famous by Erik Wennstrom felt almost too dream-like in ways. Dreadwine by Eric Eve was sort of a middle ground between these two extremes. Playing these definitely gave me a few things to think about with my own WIP.

Note: There may be a spoiler or two in the paragraphs below regarding these three games. 

The Retreat

Nothing that occurs in this game strikes me as anything that couldn't just as believably happen in the physical real world. The introduction to the story tells of some great apocalypse that is coming and essentially everyone is doomed. So now, you've been invited to party away your last living moments over at some guys house that you only vaguely know.

There are many NPCs with a lot to say, and talking to them normally made the story progress. The party continues until your impending doom approachs closer, forcing you and NPCs further into the party house. There was no twist for me at the end. No surprise. Nor did the ending give me any more reason to believe that what I just experienced was dream. Perhaps the dream that inspired the author to create this game was realistically vivid?


This story begins in a café where you are accompanied by two NPCs. A bottle of foreboding wine sits on the table, and there is talk of something very strange and diabolical happening. It is soon that you realize that you had best escape this town as soon as possible to prevent meeting the same fate as the other citizens. Phrases such as "'s strangely quiet for so crowded a spot" and the fact that other NPC encounters are "almost as insubstantial as ghosts" add an eerie and dream-like feel to the environment.

There are fourteen total rooms. Only a few of those (as far as I can tell) really drive the story. There may have been more I could have done with the boat, though I couldn't convince my female companion to get in the boat with me after pushing it into the water. This game ends in an obvious 'wake-up' from the dream. There weren't a lot of abstract occurrences in the story to make the game more dream-like, but the dream itself apparently inspired the author to write a good story.

No Famous

This game certainly did not lack an element of abstract dream-like strangeness. In fact, it actually over-does it a bit in my opinion. Right off the bat, I sense that I'm in a seriously wacky dream. I'm dealing with the presence of trolls, and I'm in the forest ready to ride a dining room table over rushing water with my sister. After making my way to a river bank, there's an elevator door here which feels completely out of place (the way many doorways in dreams can quite possibly be). All of this is reasonable to me, until I enter the elevator. I wasn't mapping this as I went along, but I'm pretty sure that effort would have been for not. Am I naked in a school? Naked in my own house? An airport? It's hard to tell because the game seems to tell you all of the above at the same time.

The goal of this is to get yourself to wake up after performing a few actions in the dream. References are made about realizing you are impossibly many miles away from where you should be and general disassociation, both of which I can relate to in personal dreaming. The 'dream within a dream' concept was a bit much for this game, as it involved more looping through the same locations that you aren't even sure that you are actually standing in.  I would say that out of the three games, this one is the closest to being a sort of "dream simulator". Unfortunately, there isn't much of an aspect of story-telling at all and that the mechanics of the game were a bit overly confusing for the effect of the simulation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interactive Dreaming - Barbie Did It First

The other day I was watching my girlfriend play a few old 8-bit Nintendo games. One of which was Barbie. I remembered seeing my sister play that game when I was younger. The main thing I remember about the game was that I found it to be way too hard to be a "little girls game". Another thing I remembered was the strange setting of the game.

 Barbie was a platform game, meaning you walked from side to side while jumping and avoiding obstacles and enemies. Each level was a "dream", and Barbie must collect "Zs" to avoid her dream from ending. If it does, she sits up in bed and has the option of waking up or going back to sleep.

These concepts of the Barbie NES game are nearly identical to ones I am using in my new interactive fiction, Interactive Dreaming. In the case of my game, five levels of "anxiety" are used instead of "Zs". Once your anxiety is filled, you are also then sitting up in your own bed and contemplating the same choice. However, a couple of differences with my game is that you may not always return to the same "stage" as Barbie did, and there's also another factor which may cause your dream to fade; lucidity.

Still, I was amused at the similarities. I've tried thinking of other games that follow a similar model, but I can't really think of any. If anyone reading this thinks of one, let me know. Nightmare on Elm Street (also for NES) came to mind as well, but the point of that games was actually to not fall asleep.

Right now in the development process of Interactive Dreaming, I'm almost through the prototype and planning stage. I've shifted more towards actually producing content for the game (although some of the images used are place-holders for now) while polishing the general design framework of it, including the conversation system. Although I intend for the first installment of this game to be rather short, it will probably end up being a non-competition release unless the timing is right. This way, I will take plenty of time to polish and test things.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interactive Dreaming - The Character & The Conversation

A few weeks ago, I created an introduction sequence prototype to my game that basically allowed you to create your own protagonist. Although I found it simplistic on the surface, the more I played around with it the more I frankly became intimidated of the concept. The prototype of the conversation system has also brought this more to light. This post describes the process of how I am deciding what will be the final conversation system in my interactive dreaming game and what the player itself has now become. 

Originally, when the game initialized you were asked by an “NPC” what your name is, followed by asking your "mood of the day" and what sex you are. I had planned on the latter two questions triggering variations in the story. “Mood” is an easier variable for me, because my first few drafts of the story depend on your mood before you went to bed dictating what sort of dream sequences you may encounter on your journey. Trying to facilitate the same for female perspectives is a whole other can of worms. I knew that I could code it, but I also knew that I would need to relay story plots somehow to my girlfriend or my sister for them to give me some insight of how the story should be told from a female perspective. The more I think about this, it just seems like a bad idea for this story no matter how much I would like to include those additional features..

Having your choice of gender determining some aspects of the story also brings up another issue. What if the player is playing male, but wants to interact with the NPCs in the story in a homosexual or bisexual fashion? I have no idea how to even going about implementing these sorts of choices or situations while still making them realistic, and I'm as clueless about making these elements realistic as I am with the female element.

These are my actual dreams I am creating these stories from for the game. However, in our dreams we sometimes act in ways that we wouldn't even attempt in our waking lives, or perhaps even undergo some sort of transformation. In Hallow Eve, I tried to keep the character as “blank” as possible. This really isn't a good choice for interactive fiction to a lot of people, unless the game's story is completely gender-neutral. I think for this story it would be best to stick to the boring old typical male protagonist. Even more boring is that this protagonist would  be me.

Now, for the conversation system. Originally, I thought of a system that I found simple as a kid such as the one in Ultima V. Initiate a conversation by triggering it with a “talk” command, print the first bit of text with a few words in bold as “topics”, then allow input of any of those bold words to get some text on that topic, and finally accepting the word “bye” as a way to terminate the conversation. For my attempt at this, I figured I could just plug in Keyword Interface by Aaron Reed. Including that gave me a conflict error in Inform7 dealing with color table code that I already had in place for use with Glimmr stuff. It also made me think that although this an excellent extension if I wanted to use the interface for more than conversation would probably be overkill for what I would ultimately need anyway.

For the time being, I've ended up using a numbered menu that I originally created for generating the sex and mood of the player. At this point I'm fairly certain that I'll remove choosing gender and entering your name, but use the numbered menu for conversation. The current system still uses a general trigger for talking to NPCs, “TALK TO X”. The NPC will then say some text, immediately after which a menu of responses will display. This will be more like Fallout 3 or Dragon Age II than The Secret of Monkey Island. That is, the choices will be real forks in the conversation and even the main game plot itself; rather than just seeing a few funny choices, but ultimately knowing which one would advance the plot. These choices should be both varied and dynamic.

Although I've got quite a bit of the general story framework done in text outside of my project, nothing is set in stone yet. I'm still having a bit of fun experimenting right now. I haven't set myself any sort of deadline for completing the game except for wanting to get it done within about a year. Any input on this is greatly appreciated. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

IntroComp 2011

I'm still fairly new to the "IF Scene", so I have only written one review as of now. That was a short review for Cryptozookeeper. I did get some free time to try out most of the Introcomp 2011 entries, so I figured I'd write up a blog post on the games. These really aren't full reviews by definition, rather a collection of first impressions and thoughts.

The following paragraphs are chock full of spoilers, so leave now if you do not wish to see them.

(Scroll down for rest of post)








Oh now I get it, I'm a wall bender! This has nothing to do with a night of heavy drinking. I'll give it a try.

My very first impression was "Where did I get these powers? What in the world is even going on here? I have no idea." I don't feel that this was explained very well for an "introduction" to a game.

There is a green star-shaped marker embedded in the wall to the
south.  You could bend that wall if you wanted.

> bend south wall
You can’t see any such thing.

Hmm. okay..

> bend wall
You need to specify a direction you want to bend it.

> bend wall north
(cliff north)
You raise your hand towards the south and then make a quick motion

Yay, I did it!

Now I'm bending a ramp.. whichever way it will bend. Walking around some more.. OK, the other guy made it to the keep first. Damn. Why is this even the object of the game when I can bend these marked walls? I would expect to be in some sort of cliche testing area such as the one from Portal or Cube. Eh, I guess that wouldn't be very creative. Oh well, trying again...

I think I'm starting to get it, but how am I even moving "walls" in a "gorge"? Even if I took the time to make a map, the general space of things just doesn't feel right. The graphical map is an interesting concept, but I just can't seem to make proper use of it. Giving up. If things were made just a little more clear, perhaps I'd play this again.


This one came with a help file explaining the concepts of "mental inventory" and "chunking".

Stuck in a "blind alley" for quite a while, "pondering" anything I can. Not being able to stand seems frustrating, but as the story says I obviously must be in rough shape and I'm probably trying to fly off the rails of the structure a bit too fast. I do like the writing and some of the words the author uses. "Haberdashery" for example. I chunk together 2 things for the first time. This will be the last time, because I tried this game twice  for at least 20 minutes and couldn't figure out what else to do. I think just a little more hinting would be helpful, at least in this beginning sequence. The author has noted that he hasn't even taken the time to develop complex puzzles as of yet, so I feel a bit humbled in my detective abilities.


Interesting introduction. Seems mysterious. A strange fog and hellhounds? Good, long room descriptions except for a flaw I notice in other games; not including the exits you originally came from and listing the wrong direction for an exit. (there is no hallway east of the Personal Crimes Division Operations room as listed, but there is one to the west)

Wow, that was short. And the ending is just as mysterious as the beginning setting. I think I would like to see more of this if it progressively got more creepy and these mysteries unraveled, but it's still hard for me to tell.


Not sure what to expect here. Something like Dope Wars? Let's find out. This is a "Choose your adventure" sort of thing. I find it kind of dull. The "right" answers seem pretty obvious. I can't really get into the story.

Although I consider myself a "good" writer (not a "great" writer), I don't like this style of writing. While I'm having a hard time materilizing this fairly non-descript environment in my mind, I'm quite sure that "loooolzzzz" stands in stark contrast of it and doesn't seem remotely fitting.

...and then I crashed the game by making a bet on Russian Roulette and not cheating.


So, we are finally taking that honeymoon and we feel like newlyweds? Hrm. As a divorced man in my early thirties, I don't exactly have much interest in this sort of thing right now. I hope there's going be plot twist or something.

Then, there's this issue:

You can see Cameron here.

> look at cameron
Come now, surely you know what your significant other looks
like...don’t you?

Actually, I have no idea. Cameron could be a girls name or the boys name. I don't even know what gender either of us are. No description for me either.

I press on to the north and examine the things the tourguide notes, with exception to the things he's telling me to notice that only return "you can't see any such thing."

Stuff like this can also confuse or frustrate me:

> e
Hand in hand you and Cameron head east.

You can’t go that way.

But, you just said that we did!

I'm also not real crazy about these room names. "Southern Room" and "Another Stable-Like Room" for instance. Are we just wandering around this place or.. Oh! Something happened! An object was dropped (a coin). Now I've found a statue of gorgon. Wandered around some more looking for more to do. Found nothing else. I'm not at all interested in any more of this, but a big part of that could be that it's just not my thing.


In this story, you are off on a trip of solitude to a cabin. You venture out on trails, as dreams "overcome" you (more or less a vivid memory of previous dreams that you are recounting). The conversation system is simple and effective, but a little hinting that I should keep typing the "talk to X" command to get all of the dialogue might be helpful to other players.

As things get weird, I get the feeling that I'm actually in a dream, thinking about previous dreams. I felt this was strongly hinted when picking up a "hurricane lantern" in Orchard's Edge. Then I go to move south from there and I'm met with:

z:496037 (the) z:the Middlelands z has light: 1
z ofclass Room:1
z ofclass Orchard:0
[** Programming error: (object number 41) is not of class <illegal object number 1> to apply
‘ofclass’ for **]

Then I recieve another as I move around...

z:209281 (the) z:<routine 209281>
[** Programming error: tried to test “has” or “hasnt” of <routine 209281> **]
 z has light: 0
z ofclass Room:0
z ofclass Orchard:0
z ofclass Outdoors:0
z not a room.A voice deep and dry, like a chorus of old trees intones, “As you are three, so prepare
yourself for what will come in ways three. Remember what you taste in sleep, learn needful
wisdom from the one like you, and obtain that which is of us and of you. Then shall you be

So, I assume the last part of that was a hint? Also, from the above text I assume again that I am dreaming. I'm met with a few more of these type of errors as I continue to explore. I filled my canteen with water from the lake, drank a few more times, walked around some more with the errors randomly popping up. Never could find the butterfly hair-clip, and quit.

This seems like it could be an interesting story, but I feel as it needs more attention to technical detail to keep that story flowing.


This game seems to be set in medieval times. That's a setting most adventure gaming veterans can easily wrap their heads around. I used the walk-through after examining the contents of the first room. I didn't find any technical errors. The writing is OK, but I didn't find the humor particularly amusing. Though it should probably be noted that probably have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. Would I play more of this? I think I would. While there's nothing in particular that I think of that makes this great, there's also nothing that makes me dislike it.


The setup looks like a lot could happen in this game. Still, starting out outside of the car makes no sense.. but that has been noted by the PC. I'm not sure why I'm on this "mission", but I care enough to find out. 'Jump' sent me to an unexpected but well-deserved death in the ravine.

Ah, the car has an 'ignition' which requires a key, though going a direction while in the car will automatically perform the simple actions of starting the car.Hallow Eve's PC car also had a key and an ignition, but driving off could only be done by manually using the ignition.

For the conversation system, having suggestions of what you can ask/tell, etc in parenthesis was a nice touch. The 'pisser' seems out of place and I would have settled for a bathroom that the PC didn't want to bother going in. This didn't end the way I expected. I would be interested in playing some more of this, if it actually really goes anywhere in the vehicle. I wouldn't want to spend the next hour plus trying to track down car thieves.


First off, nice manual with this one. The fake Infocom box cover is a welcome treat to me, being a nostalgic gamer. I understand this immediately to be a detective game in the same vein as Deadline. Although I own Deadline, I never got into it much; choosing Suspect as an alternative, because I found Suspect to be a much more forgiving game complexity-wise.  I also understand from reading other reviews that there are a lot of "IF community inside jokes" that which I probably won't get due to my roughly 10 year hiatus with these types of games. The inside jokes turned out to be mostly name-dropping. I found some of it mildly amusing, but still felt that perhaps I was missing out on something there that would have made it more amusing.

Starting from the hotel, the author details the environment well. The timing of ambient elements such as toilet-flushing seemed mostly solid. My only complaints here is that I didn't read things correctly such as the lights flickering. I thought it was someone playing with the lights at first due to a lack of reminding me it's thundering and lightning outside. Also, at one point I believe I was in the basement, and heard footsteps of someone coming down the stairs. After waiting a few turns, they never came.

I made my way to the squad car a completely different way than what's drawn out in the walkthrough, and I really like that sort of thing. I always welcome more than one solution to a puzzle. However, things did get a little weird doing things my way (getting Monica drunk) and then standing around in the hotel hallway:

You hear the sound of a door slam shut.

> wait
Time passes.

A woman traipses down the hall a little unsteadily, brushing up against 
you. “Pardon me,” she slurs.

> look at woman
You decide against it, letting Monica sleep.

You can hear a couple arguing loudly about something.

Here's another slight technical detail I found odd:

> up
I didn’t understand that sentence.

> go up

Den Closet
The closet reveals a stairwell.  You wonder where it leads to...

> e
You can’t go that way.

From here, you can go to the southwest, the up and the down.

No big deal, "down" got me down there, and luckily "go up" got me out. I wasn't playing in the actual crime area much before referring to the walk-through, aware that I was running out of time fast doing my usual exploring. I like the general feel of this game. It reminds me of the stories in the early Detective Comics, before Batman was introduced. I would like to see this completed with the bugs worked out. Although these sort of games are a real challenge to me, I'm up to a challenge if the story is both well-written and fun. So far it looks like both of these qualities are met.


First off, I'll have to say that while I loved "Choose Your Own Adventure" books as a kid, I'm really not a big fan of these JavaScript-based games usually. Even those old books had consequences for making the wrong decision. Can I even make a wrong decision in this game? It really doesn't look like I can. Even if this was a linear story (which I think it should be), I'm just not interested in it yet.


This game on the other hand has many choices. There's really a lot going on in this one. I see what looks like fantasy text full of names and references that I may not remember, or care to remember, but after some fascinating results of my actions, I'm motivated to get more into the story. I know after the 20 minutes I spent playing it that there's still a lot I didn't even see in the intro. Looks like it's a good game, despite me having a bias against the actual program that runs it.


You actually play the gargoyle in this game. I found that to be pretty cool, as it reminded me of a favorite Clive Barker novel of mine. I don't have the option of just killing or scaring people at will, but I do have the ability to do some pretty cruel things. Neat.

Argh! I want to learn "Forbidden Death Magic"! Heh-heh. Maybe later. Ooh, I can. Very neat. I can see that there's stats and story options that I could be a "nice" gargoyle, but what's the fun in that?

Now I've ended the game in what was probably the most evil way possible. Yes, it was abrupt as the author said, but the abundance of choices made up for that. I want to play more of this game.


This is silly, which I sort of expected from the title. Even being ridiculous on the surface, this is a pretty fun game. You get to rescue or leave people behind as well; another aspect that went into my own game which contained a zombie. I would play some more of this game as well.

In conclusion, most of these games show good potential to me. The only games I really have no desire to replay are "Of Pots and Mushrooms" and "Parthenon". Good luck to everyone that entered!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interactive Dreaming GUI Update

06.12.11 Note: I just heard back from someone with iFrotz. A new version has been released that addresses the missing elements, but the clicking on compass directions issue is still being addressed.

06.13.11 Note: Screenshot added of the prototype playing in iFrotz version 1.5.3.

With two out of three of the games beaten that I mentioned in an older post, I have been working more on my new project in between my full-time job and playing some Cryptozookeeper. I'm trying to settle on a final layout so that I do not have to keep going back and changing things as I write the actual story code. I have it looking very close to what I want it to be when I'm done. I just need to add a few more buttons and make a few more minor changes.

Here is a screenshot of the new layout thus far, running in Gargoyle..

Both of the status bars have been re-sized and re-arranged to the right of the screen. The scenery picture has been centered a bit more over the story text. All elements of the UI draw correctly when re-sizing the interpreter window.

Owning a fancy Apple device would be nice (I'm not quite the Apple hater that I was back when I created Corporate Doom), but I simply can't afford just about anything recently made by the company. However, I am trying to ensure that the game plays well on Ipad and Iphone, because of the current popularity of such devices. Who knows? Maybe I'll own one myself one day. In the meantime, I must rely on others to test the game on these pricey platforms. Luckily, the tester that helped me trouble-shoot Hallow Eve owns a Mac and an iPad, and he has tested the prototype on both.

Here is the prototype loaded in Spatterlight for Mac..

I'm satisfied with this. It looks exactly the way I expected and intended. Now let's see what it looks like in Zoom for Mac..

We have a line drawn here I've never seen before. However, it's in a non-annoying place, so I'm not bothered with it at all. This is fine. 

One note the tester gave me was that in Zoom you have to double-click the compass directions to remove, while this only requires one click in Spatterlight. Again, no biggie. I can live with that. Alright, now something I was really curious about; the game loaded in iFrotz for iPad..

Uh-oh. That's not good. As you can see, my meters are missing in this version. It's as if iFrotz had no problem with displaying anything that displayed graphics from files, but it could not draw "primitive" words, boxes, or rectangles at all. The tester also reported to me that if he tried to use the compass to move in this version, it would start to bring up the virtual keyboard, then completely crash the system. 

From what I understand, iFrotz is the only .gblorb interpreter for iPhone or iPad. I have read that glulx support in iFrotz is "still new and fragile", though I've also seen some recent updates. I'm going to point this out to the iFrotz bug-squashers in hopes that it will be addressed in the next update. 

EDIT: As noted above,  iFrotz 1.5.3 addresses the graphics issue seen in a previous version. Now all I have to wait for is the action of clicking elements in the UI to perform functions to be working. Here's an image of the prototype running in 1.5.3...

In the meantime, I'm going to carry on with the game as-is while testing in Gargoyle for Windows and Linux. Adding the last few UI elements, taking and adding more photographs for scenes, and setting up some more game mechanics. I've been writing the story and plot themselves separately in a word processor, instead of just jumping in head-first as I did with Hallow Eve. I welcome any recommendations, comments, or criticisms any of you reading this may have.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hallow Eve - Spring Thing 2011 Retrospect

Spring Thing 2011 came and went. My game, Hallow Eve, placed 6th out of 6. I am not deeply disappointed, nor am I happy about this. Some voices from the community I have heard suggest that I should not have even submitted Hallow Eve to the contest, but I am certainly glad that I did. It has been both an enjoyable experience and a learning experience. I must say that the organizer, Greg did a great job with the competition proceedings.. he even worked with me on my lack of a Paypal account.

Criticisms along the lines of "This feels like a bad simulation of a bad b-rated horror film" would be pretty scathing if I didn't agree with it. The low-brow crudeness of many aspects of the game was completely intentional and that seems to click with the people that actually enjoy the game. I can't say the same for a game like Bonehead. In contrast to me saying "Oh, you like horror? Check out my game, please pardon my oldschool mess.", Bonehead is geared towards those who are interested in baseball and is extremely well-presented with fancy glulx effects.

Some advice I received from the reviews was great. Emily Short and some others emphasized on the pacing of the story being off. Why was the pacing off? The plan. My 16 year old plan was all over the place with tons of things I wanted to bring into the game, some of which I made huge stretches to make even slightly logical. I was confident the game didn't have any game-halting bugs in it, but some important ones were brought to my attention such as a timing issue with one event and random "understanding" issues with the parser. When I launched the game after release, I noticed an end quote that was spaced way down from where it should have been.. must have been an accidental keystroke in the wee hours of the morning before Spring Thing 2011 submission time. That alone told me I was probably in for it.

A major criticism of the game I didn't agree with was that the game seemed to have no conversation system to speak of. I spent many hours creating "topics" to ask or tell just about all of the NPCs, but there was zero hinting to the player that these topics even existed. I had actually thought of bolding topics that you could ask or tell a person within narrative and description texts (A system similar to Ultima V), but part of me thought perhaps that could spoil things for some players. I regret not adding bolded text now.

There should be one more release of Hallow Eve, complete with a website and source code sometime between now and Halloween of this year. In that release I will revisit the game to address complaints with the system itself and add other small improvements. I welcome anyone who enjoyed the game to leave suggestions about story elements you would like elaborated on or perhaps even added.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Glimmr UI - Progress & Problems

In this current prototype of my next interactive fiction I'm wring in Inform7, I have most of the basic elements I wanted while planning the user interface for this game. A modified version of Erik Temple's compass example sits in a graphics window to the right. In the graphics window above, a simple graphics window is displayed, and the status bars have been moved to either side of the image.

At this point I knew I still had more to add and polish, but was satisfied with the general result. However, I did worry about how the graphics would align in different interpreter windows. Gargoyle seems to be one of the more popular ones, and is what I normally use. Above is the result in Gargoyle for Windows.

Resizing is another issue. There's probably a lot of people who re-size their interpreters after they load a story, and probably almost as many restart their game to clean up any mess the re-sizing left behind. In the image below, I've resized the Gargoyle window a few times, resulting in the "simple graphics window" being duplicated. This could be due to me not adding a bit of code to prevent this, as the window containing the compass graphics does not suffer the same effect. Below is a screenshot after resizing and before restarting.

If that assumption is correct, I figured that making sure the graphics at least align correctly in Gargoyle before any resizing should be OK. Any resizing (unless they chose to make the window even smaller) and then restarting should keep everything neat. I was wrong. Here's the same file loaded in Gargoyle for Gnome:

In this version, one of my bars is completely overlapped by the simple graphics window, and the other is far out of alignment. I have to resize the window to make it larger in order for everything to display correctly. This makes me think of other platforms as well, such as how it would display on fancy hand-held devices that I can not afford. So, at this point I'm not sure what, if any, form of standardization I should be using.

Hopefully, I can get some feedback from the community on this. Also, if anyone reading this has any thoughts on my UI in general, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My First Steps In Utilizing Glimmr

Work on the "interactive dreaming" game has begun. Rather than jump head-first into everything thing all at once, I've been trying to outline the story as much as possible a solid system for the user interface. A few lines of Inform7  code have been written in a small project to test manipulating the graphics.

With proper planning, I should get an interesting alpha version with a few rooms done by around the end of May or early June. The story of this game will branch in many directions depending on the actions of the player, and I would like to avoid "good ending or bad ending" conclusions. One reason for this is replay value. Replaying a lot of the story just to get to one or two forks in the plot for a good or bad ending isn't something that I think would make someone want to play the game again in most cases. Again, proper planning will be the only way to ensure this goes smoothly.

That said, on to my first attempts at putting simple graphics into an Interactive Fiction. I'm currently using the Glimmr Drawing Commands, Simple Graphics Window, and Bitmap Font by Erik Temple extensions to get this done. In addition to the bars shown in this crude prototype of the user interface, I would like to also add graphics displaying of a visual of some destinations or scenes, a compass rose, and perhaps some other bells and whistles.

Here is the first "test room". Note the empty blue bars on the right:

Now, the player types in the command "look at fish". In this test, doing this action raises the "lucidity level" to 50%, and filling the box with red color:

Once I had the extensions installed, I looked at the source code of Glimmr Drawing Commands for the "retro" example to help me get started. I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of drawing and positioning simple graphics. The next day, I had written a line of story code to redraw the boxes and words and draw an additional rectangle into one of the bars by using "every turn" rules. 

While in Inform7, the redrawing phase goes fairly slowly (especially in the Gnome version). However, when loading the exported gblorb file in the Gargoyle interpreter to actually play it, the graphics are redrawn instantly. Hopefully, I won't run into performance issues or bugs when coding the rest of the "every turn" rules to manipulate all positions of the 2 status bars. 

I know it isn't very pretty, but it's a start. Making things more fancy will come much later after getting more of the basic mechanics and framework finished and tested.

More to come...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interactive Dreaming

If you've ever had conversations with people about their dreams, you have probably noticed that while there are some common themes, many people dream differently. A lot of people will say something to the effect of "I know I have dreams, but I don't really remember them in the morning." Others may have such elaborate stories of their dreams that you may question them as to whether they actually had this dream, or if they sensationalized with their own imaginative story-telling.

It is my assumption that for most people, a dream is usually in 3rd person. The dream is presented almost like a movie to the dreamer. This movie is a rapidly-changing collage of sights, smells, feelings, tastes,  sounds that only your brain can bring you. I don't think that we will ever have a form of technology that allows us to accurately record and play back dreams. How many times has someone experienced what seemed like a horrible nightmare, only to feel a bit silly when trying to explain to someone else how terrifying it was to have a 2-ton toaster on giant chicken legs chase you down the street?

There is another form of dreaming which is the least common, called "lucid dreaming". If you didn't know, lucid dreaming is basically where the dreamer is aware that he or she is asleep and dreaming. Once the awareness is there, the dreamer then can begin actively participating in the dream or even change it. I frequently have these sort of dreams. I believe what started it was learning how to wake myself up as a child. Whenever a dream would get scary, I would tell myself to blink. After about the 3rd or 4th "dream blink", my actual eyes would blink, and I would wake up. As an adult, waking life can seem like the nightmare at times and dreams can sometimes be a wonderful escape, so I find myself doing the reverse; trying to keep from waking up. This can be hard once a dream goes lucid. It's as if soon after you realize that you are dreaming and really enjoying the pleasurable abstract mix of fantasy and reality, the dream tends to fade.

Dreams often inspire great writers to create worlds and the objects within them. I doubt that many of these are exact translations of the dreams themselves, because dreams can jump from one situation to another, or one part of the world to another days away, all in a matter of seconds. However, at least for me, repetition can flesh things out rather well. I often dream of certain cities or landscapes that I have never visited or even seen anywhere in my waking life, yet these places feel like actual locations in my mind. I can often revisit them. Sometimes I can return to a location and say something like "Oh hey, there is an awesome bar and arcade this way.." Sometimes I find it. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes it's closed. There is an amusement park that I frequent, but for some reason it's always almost closing time. There are also the people or animals that I've  never met. I can't say that I've never seen them.. perhaps I have? With the hundreds of faces many of us see from day to day, it's hard to say whether or not these are also imprints from our waking lives.

How many of you have created something from a dream, in some attempt to share it with others? A painting, story, anything like that. The idea of creating a video game of some sort was always appealing to me. A scary, rusted old building with monstrosities and portals all about from a nightmare would seem like an ideal level to build in Radiant for Doom 3 or Prey. However, what about a pleasant dream about staring on a beach while gazing at an ocean with masses of tourists walking around? The Doom 3 engine doesn't seem like a good candidate. If you want both in the same game, it's not as if you could just switch over to the Crysis engine for the desired effect. In fact, trying to project many dream landscapes would be an extreme undertaking. Dream landscapes are extremely variant. In front of you may be the ocean, but to the left of you is a massive, dry and mountainous canyon. Behind you may be the door to your apartment.

I think that interactive fiction is the best medium to even attempt to start creating a "dream game". Take  Through The Looking Glass for example. There was a game created by Magnetic Scrolls called Wonderland that I felt was very true to the book and the weird, random things occurred fluidly. In contrast, years later when Alice came out, the game felt very empty to me. I've always been a fan of Id Software engines, but the Quake III engine just couldn't pull me into the game. Perhaps that's why the game was made the way it was.. it was a more "evil" version of Alice who ran around and slashed things with a butcher knife that could be much portrayed much easier than the Alice of Wonderland, who was occupied with solving strange puzzles in a strange and unpredictable world.

This is one reason why I'm very inspired to make my own attempt at a "dream game" using Inform 7. Rather than being one, huge "dream world" though, it will be a series of short-stories. Some locations will revisited, as well as some characters. I want the stories to be very free-form, completely removed from any constraints or expectations of both our conscious lives and traditional interactive fiction. That being said, I will probably begin experimenting with adding some two-dimensional graphics to help guide the player along his journey. If a worded description of a room is too bizarre, perhaps a few hours in GIMP to create a visual representation of it would be helpful? Dream worlds can be confusing, nonsensical places.. but  I do know which direction it is to that awesome Arcade Bar that only exists in my mind.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Deadline Approaches...

As it stands now, I have about two weeks left to finish the "testing beta" version of my first interactive fiction title, Hallow Eve. It is now at about 90 % completion. However, the current situation is much like a friend of mine said yesterday; "Isn't the last 10% the longest stretch?"

The idea of a Halloween-themed text adventure came to me about 18 years ago, when I was around 13. I didn't think there really were enough Halloween-themed games that even felt like they captured the spirit of the holiday. I wrote up a basic story with a simple map, and attempted to create them from scratch in both QBASIC and Turbo C ver 1.1 off and on for about 2 years. Eventually, the result was always some endless loop of sloppy mess after only getting a few commands, objects, and rooms coded. I think I envisioned some sort of text adventure that would be similar to a graphic adventure I had played called Hugo's House of Horrors, only with an "edgier" story.

By now, I've done a lot of other maps and mods for the IdSoft engine games, including a Flood Control Dam #3 map based on the infamous location in Zork I, in addition to other gaming development. However, the thought of attempting another text adventure never crossed my mind again for quite a few years. In the summer of 2010, I'm having a conversation with the same friend I mentioned earlier. After talking a bit with him about the new release of the Get Lamp documentary, and talking about old Infocom games in general, I eventually wonder aloud if there were any better tools available these days to write Interactive Fiction. He mentions Inform7. I immediately began writing my first, rough version of Hallow Eve in Inform and have had a lot of fun learning the language. I also connected with an IF community around this time that I didn't even know existed, and they are some of the friendliest and insightful people I've ever talked to.

My intentions are to enter the game into the Spring Thing and to do so I have to officially claim my intent to the organizers by March 1st. If I don't at least have my game at 99% and haven't placed my game into the hands of a tester or two, I won't feel comfortable entering. After March 1st, I will have one month to turn in the "final" version.

At this point I really have no clue how my game will be accepted by the IF community. A lot of modern IF works utilize innovative schemes that break from old tradition, but mine seems to feel much like an old Infocom title in many ways. I'm trying not to worry about that so much as just ensuring that the game is solid and that the story is entertaining.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Webpage Redesign

Today I started a redesign of my site. I created a Blogger account, and with a few scripts I now have a HTML feed of anything I blog ending up at my homepage provided by my ISP. This will make updating both easier and faster.

For now, I will continue to update the Retro Shard section by manually typing up the HTML code. I have also removed my old forums. The free board provider that I previously used just continued to get worse, plus barely anyone but myself was posting to it. In the future, if Retro Shard ends up with a lot of active players, I will create a new and better forum which will only be for that. Integrating the Blogger account with this page removes the need to have a forum for my other projects, as people can leave feedback now on anything I post.

I founded the Lab of Jizaboz website in 1999, serving as an online portfolio for my personal interests and projects. I hope to keep updating it for many more years to come, and I am always thankful to everyone who has had interest my work.