The IF Theory Reader
Mar 7th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I’m trying to backfill a little bit, having been away from a computer for much of last week, trying to help orchestrate the revival of the Old Man Murray Wikipedia page from a cruddy mobile phone. One such event that happened to me was the release of the IF Theory Reader.

Edited by Kevin Jackson-Mead and J. Robinson Wheeler, the IF Theory book contains over 400 pages of articles on the art and theory of making games in text. I wrote a piece on NPC (Non-Player Character) Dialogue. Here’s how my piece starts:

The very first time I recall being completely smitten by NPC dialogue, I was a kid playing “Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls.” The game depicted a group of role-playing college students engaged in a round of ‘Malls n’ Muggers.’ I had plenty of things I could do in the game at that point – classes to attend, spells to find, co-eds to maybe seduce once my parents had gone to bed and it wouldn’t be quite so weird – but I had my player character stay put in the dorm and just listen to this group of NPCs play a game with each other.

I wrote whoever I could find on my phone when the news dropped earlier this week, but I already received a comment, which I’ll post here, because the comment was in a private e-mail, and 2011 is all about transparency. In between rounds of driving my dear friends away from my bulletin board, Benjamin “Pinback” Parrish had this to say about non-player characters:

The best NPCs I ever saw were in Infocom’s “Cutthroats”. Not because they had great dialogue, but because they would talk to you, and then tell you to meet them somewhere at a certain time, and then leave, and then go do other things, and then meet you on time, but not a minute before. At that point, I’ll listen to what they have to say.

I have never played “Cutthroats,” never even started it. I have a boxed copy I bought from eBay years ago on a stand downstairs with some other games. I dated a girl who was a cutter many years ago, playing that game together probably would have saved the relationship. That and a spork.

Er, anyway, you can check the entire IF Theory Reader out as a PDF here, or buy a printed hardcopy.

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