Reviews From Trotting Krips

Introducing Interactive Fiction

Interactive fiction is a type of video game that is dependent upon the player typing full sentence or verb/noun commands in order to advance gameplay rather than by directing his or her player-character through a mouse, joystick or another auxiliary game control mechanism. The game's parser responds to these player inputs in different ways according to how the author dictated during the game's developement stage. Suppose there is a game which starts off in a cell where the protagonist has probably been trapped by some wicked Orc warlord. The cell will be described in the room description(the first thing the player sees upon entering a room for the first time) - it will tell the player that there is a bed in one corner, a large window with the glass broken set in the northern wall, and pieces of shattered glass strewn across the floor. The player should now investigate his surroundings further by examining everything he thinks might prove useful. By typing EXAMINE BED or LOOK AT BED or even X BED, he should learn more about the bed. But if he types EXAMINE COUCH, for instance, the game will probably come back with an error message. There is no couch in this room, so this is an invalid input. After looking at the bed and the window, the player examines the floor strewn with glass. The game recognizes this command, and gives the following response: "Thousands of tiny pieces of shattered glass cover the floor. There is nothing else special on the floor so far as you can see, but you do see something jutting out from under your bed." This gets the player curious, so he decides to LOOK UNDER BED. The game responds: "There is indeed something there, but what is it?" These are the sort of situations that are apt to frustrate even a good player, but let's not give up so easy. The player types LOOK AT SOMETHING. The game does not understand this input. The player then types just LOOK AT THING. This the game knows! "It is a large, red brick that looks extremely capable of breaking windows. Indeed, it is the one which shattered your cell window into a thousand pieces some time ago. Attached to the brick is a note." The player isn't interested in the brick, so he goes for the note: GET NOTE. And now the game is well on its way to completion. Depending on the complexity of the game in question, you might have been allowed to simply jump out the window from the start. This would probably handicap your later progress in the game because you missed the note which no doubt contained some pertinent information. That brick may be needed later, too.

This type of game -- also known as text adventures -- were dominant throughout the 1980s. Companies such as Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls, Level 9 and Legend released these adventures fairly regularly. The earlier games were generally  wholly devoid of graphics while some later ones had still pictures of often stunning quality to help the  player visualize the scene.
Perhaps inevitably, text adventures began to die as computers were able to better display and process  graphics. Infocom was purchased (and subsequently shut down) by Activision, Magnetic Scrolls eventually stopped writing games altogether and Level 9 got out of the entertainment software field.

However, there are still a certain faction of game players that enjoy -- and even prefer -- this style of  gaming experience. Development languages have been freely released in recent years that allow computer programmers  to write their own adventures. These systems -- Inform, Tads, Hugo, AGT and Alan -- are fairly easy to pick up and offer friendly manuals & support to assist with game development. As a result, many former players are now writing their own text adventures with increasingly remarkable results.
It would probably be accurate to say that the most experimental and engrossing video games currently being  produced are coming from this pool of developers. Players that perhaps seek more depth and story are drawn to these works. And most of these new games are totally free, to boot.

In order to play most games, you will need to download an interpreter which can understand the language in which the games are written. Games written with TADS may be played with a TADS interpreter - games written with Inform may be played with an Inform interpreter. Games written with homebrewn systems usually may be played without downloading a special interpreter - for example, DOS games always have a runnable file which will invoke the game directly. For more information on how to get the games and the interpreters, read the section a few paragraphs below about "Playing The New Games."

The IF Scene

Usenet offers a wide variety of newsgroups for people to discuss a myriad of topics. Text adventures actually have three groups dedicated solely toward them. These groups are: (for discussing the games themselves) (for discussing text adventure development) (allegedly for posting free text games, although there is not much activity on this newsgroup)

Both the "rgif" and "raif" groups enjoy a very strong signal-to-noise ratio.

There is also a newsgroup devoted solely to the discussion of AIF(adult interactive fiction):; this group is relatively unknown in the mainstream IF scene, but it has a good number of regulars and fairly high traffic considering the niche subject matter.


Playing The Old Classics

Perhaps you remember some text adventurers you enjoyed playing from years ago. In fact, Zork I, Zork II and Zork III are now freely available from Activision. The CD that contained most of Infocom's "classic" releases is called Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom and has everything except the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Shogun (mostly due to the respective trademarks of Douglas Adams and James Claville). It should be noted that games developed after Infocom officially "broke up" such as The Circuit's Edge and Mines of Titan are not included, nor is the board game (Fooblitzky) or their spreadsheet (Cornerstone). Nevertheless, the CD does contain over 30 text adventures. Details on obtaining a new CD are best described right here.

It should be noted that Activision still retains the copyright for the Infocom titles and that, aside from the first three Zorks, they are not freeware, shareware, abandonware or otherwise officially discontinued. The Masterpieces CD can be had for as little as twenty bucks American, tho'.


Playing The New Games

The new games reside on a free German mathematics server! You can download all the games you like, there are no IP ratios. The site is commonly referred to as "GMD" and the IF section is located via anonymous ftp at , and the games directory is located at . From here, you need only to select your operating system and you're off! Also contained on the server are all the interpreters and even game developement systems you could dream of - just explore around the base directory.

As to which games are any good... well, that's why there is Reviews From Trotting Krips.


Writing Your Own Games

David Glasser hosts and maintains an excellent FAQ on The link is:


The Interactive Fiction Competition

Each year, a competition is held in which text adventure authors create new games and pit them against one another for fabulous cash and prizes. Anyone can enter, so long as your game is completely free. The deadline is always September 30th and this year there was 37 entries! The 1999 Interactive Fiction competition package can be downloaded here for Windows and here for Macintosh. It does contain its own installer. It also will put the Inform and TADS interpreters on your computer so that you would be able to download and use any .z5, .z8 or .gam file you might come across and play them!

To learn more about the competition, head over to .


Interactive Fiction is a rewarding, entertaining hobby to become a part of. Feel free to ask any questions you might have on our Message Board . Also, our Links page shows the way to various other review sites, programming language homepages and adventure game info pages.