Interactive Fiction

Can I just say this right off?  Text adventures are fun.

There’s something about wandering around in a minimalist arena of verbal descriptions that makes even the most mundane and disorganized of stories feel incredibly special.

You are in the empty room.

There is a paper clip here.


The trouble is that, historically at least, text adventures inevitably were mundane and disorganized; Zork and its ilk suffer from the obvious problem that all you ever do is wander around using things with other things for no particular reason.

Two facts that might surprise you, however:

First, text adventures did not die in the eighties.  And second, they are a great deal more advanced now.

Modern interactive fiction is all about storytelling.  The new name that has replaced the now-deprecated term “text adventure” indicates this focus.  These stories use the interactive format to increase immersion: Now the adventure really is yours and you are in control of what happens.

Is this a shameless plug for my interactive fiction?  Of course.  It’s called Aurora.  It’s set on a spacecraft, where you awaken to find the ship off course and everyone else still in cryogenics.  It’s up to you to figure out what has gone wrong.

You can download the game here; you will also need the Glulxe interpreter to run the game, which you can get here (you probably want the Windows installer).  For a little help on this game (and interactive fiction in general, in case you haven’t played much before), look below the cut.

Interactive fiction revolves around the player typing commands and the computer interpreting them.  Commands are case-insensitive and you don’t need to use punctuation.

This game is in beta, so the first command you should always type is TRANSCRIPT.  This will save a transcript of a game as a text file; you can email this to me so I can see what did and didn’t work for you.  If you have a comment, type an asterisk first, like * NOT SURE WHAT TO DO HERE.

You are on a spaceship, so the cardinal directions you type to move around are FORE, AFT, PORT, and STARBOARD.  You can just type F, A, P, and S for short.  UP, DOWN, IN, and OUT are also used here and there.

Other important commands: LOOK to examine your surroundings; EXAMINE (an object), INVENTORY.  The abbreviations for these are L, X, and I.  You can TAKE and DROP things that look portable and OPEN things like doors and boxes.  These are all standard interactive fiction commands.  When in doubt, examine everything.

My game has some new commands, too.  The most important is USE:  You can USE most items; sometimes you need to USE (an object) ON (another object).  If you want to look up a topic (say, in a book), try CONSULT (the book) ABOUT (the topic).

This game has a large cast and you can switch between characters.  Type SWITCH TO (character) to play as someone else.  It’s also helpful to TALK TO (someone), ASK (someone) ABOUT (a topic), or TELL (someone) ABOUT (a topic).

But don’t limit yourself to these!  The joy of interactive fiction is that you can try anything you can put into words.  PUT (something) ON/IN (something), GO TO (a location), SLEEP, LISTEN, WEAR (something), UNLOCK (something)…just do whatever makes sense to you.  This is a beta, so if you do something that makes sense and it doesn’t work, I can fix it for the next version.

Type ABOUT at any point in the game to get more command suggestions.

Finally, my admonition:  Please try to make it through the whole game!  You can email me (or comment here) for hints, but plenty of people have tested the opening hallway and the later parts are where it really gets good.  You ought to at least wake Gail up.


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