Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Interactive Fact

Much like comic books became Graphic Novels (at least for some, I hear Alan Moore can't stand the title), what were once called "text adventures" became "interactive fiction".

You are either nostalgic for the time you knew what "XYZZY" meant or you probably can't care less. Some people are keeping the flame alive, though. It may be a dead genre commercially but a small group of IF enthusiasts are keeping its spirit alive and, along the way, producing much that is very playable and often, yes, thought provoking (I played AdVerbum the other day and the thought it provoked was "what kind of a sadist wrote this", but in a good way).

Another way to keep the genre alive is to build shrines to IF's past glories. Friend-of-the-blog and occasional contributor here, Peter Verdi, has done just that. His new site is a paean to all things Magnetic Scrolls. It's not entirely finished yet, but as a prior warning of future perfection it sure does bring the pretty. Peter has let me know that he has interviews lined up with a number of key players from the company and hopes to publish these soon.

MS was one of the great IF publishers. Probably only directly rivalled by Infocom in terms of overall gameplay. Infocom were more prolific, but MS had graphics and arguably the better parser (the bit that understands your input, famously one MS game boasted a problem who's solution was "PLANT THE POT PLANT IN THE PLANT POT WITH THE TROWEL").

Infocom, by the way, was the publisher of the official Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy game. Well, in some cases, not so much a game as an act of sadism by Douglas Adams on gamers. Despite this, it was Infocom's top selling title (except for Zork, if you've got this far you'll know what that is) and they desperately wanted to make a sequel. This never happened. Some of the reasons why this was are explored over at

What's interesting about the above article is that some of it's issues are mulled over by a number of ex-Infocom members (including Dave Lebling, Marc Blanc and Steve Meretzky) and quite a few from Magnetic Scrolls (Anita Sinclair, Phil South, Michael Bywater). So it's not just fascinating as a piece of history. It's a tear-jerking reunion as well!

1 comment:

Peter said...

I much applaud your post - and not only because

a) I happen to have a keen interest in the subject


b) you linked to my website,

but mostly because

c) it is excellently written.

Your "transition from comic book to graphic novel"-analogy fits like a glove, although (much like Alan Moore feels about the term 'graphic novel') I do not like the term 'interactive fiction' much, because it is often used to make the genre seem more intellectual than it actually is.

As for the interviews - so far I have been in touch with and sent questions to one MS key-player and interview requests to three others. Alas, no replies from the latter three so far.