[rec.arts.int-fiction] Interactive Fiction Authorship FAQ

Part 1: Meta-FAQ information

1.1: Contents

PART 1: Meta-FAQ information PART 2: About the newsgroup PART 3: General Interactive Fiction information PART 4: Programming IF PART 5: Writing IF: What has been written on the subject... PART 6: Internet Index: What is available on...

1.2: Recent Changes

1.3: What is the FAQ for and where do I get it from?

This document is intended to serve as both a list of answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQ) for the newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction, and as a source of more general information for those interested in interactive fiction authorship and/or theory.

The FAQ is updated as and when the maintainer feels it is necessary and has the time. [Recent Changes: 1.1] will detail major changes to the FAQ. If you see any problems with the FAQ, or have any suggestions, email the FAQ maintainer (Stephen Griffiths) at stevgrif "AT" actrix.gen.nz

The most recent version of the FAQ can be found at <http://plover.net/~textfire/raiffaq/>.

Alternatively, you could download it from the IF Archive in either HTML <http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction/FAQ.htm> or plain text format <http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction/FAQ>. If you have difficulty accessing the ifarchive.org site try one of the IF Archive mirror sites listed in [The IF-Archive: 6.1].

There also is an Italian translation at <http://space.tin.it/computer/lmarcant/raiffaq/index.html> by Lorenzo Marcantonio (lomarcan@tin.it).

1.4: How is the FAQ composed?

The FAQ has been split into six separate parts.

You are now reading part 1 (Meta-FAQ information). This answers questions about the FAQ itself, such as its availability and layout. There is also a full part-by-part contents at [Contents: 1.2] .

Part 2 (About the newsgroup) describes rec.arts.int-fiction.

Part 3 (General Interactive Fiction information) answers questions asked by people new to the newsgroup or interactive fiction in general. It does not cover writing IF.

Part 4 (Programming IF) will be of interest to the (prospective) interactive fiction author. It includes details of the major authoring systems and other tools. It is mostly focused on the programming side of IF.

Part 5 (Writing IF) contains an informal bibliography of Internet documents on interactive fiction theory, and information on the major discussions to be found in the rec.arts.int-fiction archives. It is mostly focused on the writing side of IF.

Finally, part 6 (Internet Index) contains brief descriptions and URLs of FTP and WWW sites and other Internet resources mentioned elsewhere in the FAQ, and describes the IF-Archive.

It is recommended that those new to rec.arts.int-fiction read part 1 first (to get a feel for the FAQ), followed by part 3 (if you don't know much about IF) and then part 2 (to learn about the newsgroup), with parts 4 and 5 last, though only if you wish to write IF. Part 6 should be referred to as needed, though the section on the IF-Archive is a must-read. Please read part 2 *before* posting *anything* to the newsgroup: it'll make it easier on everyone.

1.5: Acknowledgements and Copyright Notice

The FAQ is maintained by Stephen Griffiths (stevgrif "AT" actrix.gen.nz).

Many people have contributed to this document, so thanks to them. In particular, shiny stars to Jim Aikin, Adam Cadre, Volker Blasius, John Elliott, Julian Fleetwood, LucFrench, Stephen Granade, Neil K. Guy, Douglas Harter, John Hill, John Holder, Theodore Hwa, Jonadab the Unsightly One, Amir Karger, Stephen Kitt, Iain Merrick, Robin Munn, Graham Nelson, Chris Nebel, Bob Newell, Thomas Nilsson, Andrew Plotkin, Mike Roberts, Gunther Schmidl, Kent Tessman, Alex Warren, Roger Burton West, and John Wood, plus all the people I forgot to put here. Special thanks to Doug Harter for his efforts in scouring the newsgroup archives way back when (which sadly came to nought, but there you go), to Ivan Cockrum for providing webspace at textfire.com, and to Lorenzo Marcantonio for the FAQ's Italian translation.

Previous editions were maintained by David Glasser (glasser@iname.com), Julian Arnold (hippocampus@kwic.com), Jorn Barger (jorn@mcs.com) and David A. Graves (dag@cup.hp.com).

This FAQ is copyright 1998 - 2000 by David Glasser with subsequent changes made, with permission, by the new FAQ maintainer, Stephen Griffiths. Please feel free to quote from this document, but you must acknowledge this source. The FAQ, or individual parts of it, may be freely distributed by any means. However, no charge may be made for the distribution (save for the cost of the media itself) and part 1, in its entirety and including this copyright notice and details of how to obtain the full FAQ, must be included with any and all distributions.

It would be courteous to inform the FAQ maintainer if you wish to quote from (well, in anything other than a Usenet post or email or whatever) or redistribute the FAQ.

As this document is supplied gratis, with no demand or request for payment or other recompense, the maintainer is hereby pleased to announce that in no event whatsoever will he be held liable in any way for any loss of data, loss of earnings, loss of savings, general disappointment or other unhappiness resulting from the use of or abuse of or inability to use any and all information or misinformation within or indeed without this document, or from any admission or omission therein or thereof which either directly or indirectly causes any one, or any combination of two or more, of the aforementioned unpleasantries. On the other hand, feel free to attribute any good things which happen to you or those around you to this document in general, and to me in particular.

Part 2: About the newsgroup

2.1: What is the purpose of rec.arts.int-fiction?

rec.arts.int-fiction is a reasonably low volume, high signal-to-noise newsgroup for the discussion of interactive fiction. Many threads are relevant to, and can be followed by, programmers and non-programmers alike.

In this newsgroup, we discuss the technical and artistic aspects of interactive fiction, as well as the actual processes of and tools for writing it. While we do mention specific IF games, it is typically in the context of comparing and contrasting their structure or artistic merit-- with emphasis on the development of IF as a literary genre and/or a form of computer-based art/entertainment.

An associated group, rec.games.int-fiction, focuses on playing interactive fiction with reviews, requests for hints and so on.

The two groups, rec.arts.int-fiction and its sister-group rec.games.int-fiction, as you might imagine, complement each other rather nicely. They are however distinct from one another and you should bear in mind their particular charter before sending a post. Posting to more than one group is generally not a good idea. Select the appropriate newsgroup and post only to that one. Just as you would not post questions about how to solve a specific game in this group, please refrain from posting questions on IF design and implementation in rec.games.int-fiction.

Remember, rec.arts.int-fiction is a discussion group, and will only function if people contribute to it. So, while you ought to just read for a week or two to get a taste of the flavor of the group before spicing things up with your first post, don't lurk too long. We do want to hear from you...

One must also realize that rec.games.int-fiction never discusses food in its off-topic posts. This is left up to raif.

2.2: What topics are appropriate here?

Topics related to interactive fiction design, theory, and implementation are appropriate, as is the discussion of IF implementation languages (authoring systems). Ideas on applying popular technologies (object oriented programming, incremental compilers, etc.) to problems in interactive fiction development (knowledge representation, natural language parsing, etc.) are welcomed. There are many pleas of a "how do I do this...?" nature with reference to the nuts'n'bolts of particular authoring systems (very nearly 100% of which are answered). You should put the name of the authoring system, enclosed in square brackets, at the beginning of the subject line of your post (e.g., "[Inform]", "[Hugo]", "[TADS]", etc.), as this allows people who do not wish to read about particular systems to maintain effective kill-files. It also often helps if you post a short piece of code that demonstrates your problem: we cannot read your mind and your post is useless if we can't understand your problem. However, try to keep your examples succinct and relevant: it's hard and boring to sift through pages of code to find one tiny error. Do not post very long or irrelevant pieces of code.

Sometimes people post "giftware", clever pieces of code which solve a particular problem. These, too, should be kept as concise as possible. "Giftware" is usually placed in the public domain, but don't take this for granted. However, if you intend to post "giftware", please consider uploading your code to the IF-Archive [What is the IF-Archive?: 6.1] instead and posting a pointer to it in a raif message. This way your contribution will be given a permanent home on the Internet and will help to build a large literature library for the authoring system you have chosen.

Posts on authoring Web-based hyperfiction are not inappropriate on rec.arts.int-fiction, though it is true that there is not much of an audience on the newsgroup for this sort of thing.

Reviews of interactive fiction games are gladly received on either newsgroup. The nature of a review may be such that it is relevant to both the interactive fiction newsgroups. This is an exception to the cross-posting rule. Whenever you do cross-post, whether it be for reviews or other purposes, please set your Followup-To: header to one or the other; this ensures any followup messages are posted only to the most appropriate group. Post-competition reviews of IF Competition games [What sort of events does the IF community do?: 2.6] should be posted only to rgif.

The other major exception to the crossposting rule is requests for betatesters for games. Such requests may appear on either, or both, of the newsgroups. However, please *do not* post replies to the newsgroups. Send your reply to the author via private e-mail. Otherwise, the resulting glut of "me too!" posts is extremely annoying to the other readers of the newsgroup. Many authors will in fact *ignore* such replies to the newsgroups, and will only respond to those sent by e-mail. If you are an author posting for betatesters, you should set your Followup-To: news header to the word 'poster' (no quotes). See [How do I become an IF author?: 4.1] for more information on betatesting your game.

Lastly, game announcements are often crossposted to both of the groups, with a Followup-To: to rgif.

Controversial viewpoints are sometimes posted and indeed are to be encouraged; when you post a dissenting view remember to attack the idea, not the person. Let us debate, not battle. raif has been very good when it comes to that; most fights have been misunderstandings that were soon fixed. Our flamewars rarely last a week, and there usually are only a handful per year - which is quite good for a newsgroup.

2.3: ...and what topics are not appropriate?

Please don't post questions about specific adventure game puzzles to this newsgroup, as it was set up for discussion of interactive fiction from the point of view of the *author*, not the *player*. Please post these queries to the newsgroup rec.games.int-fiction, not here. Also, it is usually considered impolite to post bug reports for games or other software (including authoring systems) to either newsgroup. The software's author/maintainer would no doubt welcome a private e-mail though (and you usually get your name in the credits of the next release). Bugs may be reported on the newsgroup(s) if it is a bug which can reasonably be assumed to detrimentally affect other users of the software and/or can be easily avoided or remedied. (Bugs in the old Infocom games are commonly reported on rgif, especially when they are humorous.)

When discussing specific games, please be careful not to spoil them for readers who may not have played them. You have a few choices:

This is not a newsgroup for the discussion of traditional "static" or "passive" fiction. Literary magazine ads, advertisements for writers, and other general fiction topics should be posted to the appropriate newsgroup (alt.prose, misc.writing, rec.arts.books, rec.arts.poems, rec.arts.prose, etc.). However, this confusion has come up in the past (newcomers believing the group name means "International Fiction", for example), and a polite pointer is better than a "get this junk off the newsgroup" flame.

Discussions of MUDs (multi-user dungeons) belong on rec.games.mud.*, although discussion of multi-player IF theory is certainly appropriate here. Information on LARPs (live-action role playing games) and FRPs (fantasy role playing games) can be found in rec.games.frp.misc. Questions about the various "roguelike" games, such as "NetHack," "Angband," etc. should be posted to rec.games.roguelike.*.

Though posters may certainly post to raif in non-English languages, speakers of Italian may be pleased to learn that there is a newsgroup for Italian IF called it.comp.giochi.avventure.testuali.

You should of course follow basic netiquette conventions such as:

2.4: Is there an archive of newsgroup postings?

The very-nearly-complete and unabridged archives of posts to both interactive fiction newsgroups are stored on the IF-Archive [What is the IF-Archive?: 6.1] at /if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction/ . (Unfortunately there is a gap in the records between January 1997 and mid-1999.) The rec.arts.int-fiction archives have been converted to HTML, and are on the Web, fully indexed and linked by date and by thread, at <http://bang.dhs.org/if/raif/>.

If you are looking for the most recent posts, check out <http://groups.google.com/>. Google Groups' archive goes back to 1995.

Postings to rec.games.int-fiction are similarly archived on the IF-Archive, in the directory /if-archive/rec.games.int-fiction/ . They have not been HTMLized, and rec.games.int-fiction is available from "Google Groups".

2.5: What abbreviations will I find on the newsgroups and in the FAQ?

IF == Interactive Fiction, the subject of this FAQ
raif == rec.arts.int-fiction, the newsgroup about writing IF
rgif == rec.games.int-fiction, the newsgroup about playing IF
r*if == either of the above newsgroups
PC == Player Character, the player's character inside a game. (Also, Personal Computer, which usually implies an Intel/Microsoft setup.)
NPC == Non-Player Character, other characters inside a game.
gmd == the IF Archive (based at ftp.gmd.de)
ifMUD == Interactive Fiction Multi-User Dungeon, or some such [Are there any IF-related chat spaces?: 6.4]

You may see people referred to by nicknames, many of which are the same as their ifMUD [Are there any IF-related chat spaces?: 6.4] usernames. Most of these nicknames are similar to their real names; notable exceptions include Grocible (Neil K. Guy); Zarf (Andrew Plotkin); Whizzard (G. Kevin Wilson); devil (Andrew Pontious); and inky (Dan Shiovitz). Nobody's really sure who the Admiral Jota is.

The FAQ often refers to files on the IF-Archive; see [What is the IF-Archive?: 6.1] for more information on that.

2.6: What sort of events does the IF community do?

Two annual IF traditions are the IF Competition and the XYZZY awards.

The Annual I-F Competition, started in 1995, is open to all authors of interactive fiction. Entrants' games can be written in any language (e.g. BASIC, C, a dedicated authoring system, etc.), though use of one of the IF languages is recommended. The competition was founded by G. Kevin "Whizzard" Wilson, continued by David Dyte, and currently ran by Stephen Granade (sgranade@phy.duke.edu). More information about the IF Competition is available at <http://ifcomp.org/>.

The XYZZY awards, hosted by Eileen Mullin of XYZZYnews, are an Oscar-style award ceremony each February on ifMUD, giving honor (and trophies!) to the best IF of the previous year. Anyone can vote on the numerous categories by going to <http://www.xyzzynews.com/>.

2.7: What is mimesis?

mimesis (mi-me'sis, mi-) n. 1. The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world, especially human actions, in literature and art.

[the following is stolen from a post to raif by Adam Cadre]

In brief, there are generally two different things people on this group use the word "mimesis" to refer to:

(1) The extent to which the player feels like she's experiencing what the game tells her she is, rather than experiencing the sensation of typing on a keyboard and watching words scroll by on a screen;

(2) The extent to which stuff in the game seems to work the way things work in real life, or at least the extent to which it maintains a degree of internal consistency.

The idea of mimesis with regard to IF was started by Roger Giner-Sorolla in his "Crimes Against Mimesis" postings some time back on raif. You can find a copy of it at <http://bang.dhs.org/if/library/design/mimesis.html>

More recently, Adam "Bruce" Thornton wrote a very funny in-joke game called "Sins Against Mimesis".

Part 3: General Interactive Fiction information

3.1: What is interactive fiction?

"Interactive fiction" is a catch-all name for many forms of story-telling. Most forms are text-based (but see below) and feature some degree of reader, or player, participation beyond the act of, say, turning the page of a book to read the next one.

In the context of rec.arts.int-fiction the name is most commonly used to refer to just one type: computer-based text adventures. These games involve the player entering textual commands in response to the game's output. In turn, this output is influenced by the player's input. An extremely simple example of this interplay between player input and game output (from "Zork") is:

West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.

Opening the small mailbox reveals a leaflet.



ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals. No computer should be without one!"

Although interactive fiction, in the sense of text adventures, is usually text-only, there has always been limited interest on rec.arts.int-fiction in graphics and sound. It is widely considered that the most important, if not the defining, element of interactive fiction is the text-based user interface and the parser (that part of the program which analyzes and acts upon the player's input), and as long as this is kept there is no particular reason why the game's output cannot include, or consist entirely of, graphics (static or animated) and/or sound. A not insignificant number of "purists" would refute this, however. Recent updates to the major IF languages have simplified creation of graphical and aural IF.

"Interactive fiction" is also used to refer to (Web-based) hyperfiction, where the reader selects links to progress though the story; "Choose Your Own Adventure" (CYOA) books, which are a sort of non-computer hyperfiction; multiple author, or contributory, fiction, where multiple authors write a story by each contributing, say, one chapter; and MUDs and MUSHes, which may loosely be described as multi-player text adventures. It has also been suggested that Role Playing Games (RPGs), such as "Dungeons & Dragons", present the ultimate in interactive fiction.

Interactive movies have also been mentioned on the newsgroup from time to time. This is a rather poorly defined genre of film-making. Interactive movies seem to be the cinematic equivalent of CYOA books, rather than text adventures.

Though the non-text adventure forms of IF are rarely discussed on the group, one must always keep in mind that the group was created (by famous Mac guru Adam C. Engst, circa 1986) without the intention of text adventures in mind. Though you may not, many people enjoy discussion of non-text adventure IF on the newsgroup, and so flaming newcomers with a "that's not what raif is for!" is not a good idea.

Part 4: Programming IF

4.1: How do I become an IF author?

Write some interactive fiction. This is done with an authoring system, such as those described below. Most systems comprise of a specialized interactive fiction language with which you write the source code for your game, a compiler which turns your source code into a playable gamefile, and an interpreter which is what is used to play the gamefile produced by the compiler.

However, quite a few people write their own system in C or BASIC or another language, either focused solely around a single game or as an expandable language. It is easier to use a pre-made system, and they will offer more portability. It will also stop you from having to remake the wheel. However, if you want to make your own system, nobody's going to stop you (well, they shouldn't, at least). It would probably be a good idea to look at the current systems to get a basic idea of what to do.

With the advent of Glk, making your own systems portable is easier. If you are writing in C, take a look at Glk. If you use it for your input and output, it will make your game a lot more portable. It is simple and powerful. However, it can't do everything. See [What is Glk?: 4.5] for details.

It is generally agreed upon that much work on a game is done before any source code is written. There are many and varied approaches to this design and planning stage, and it is difficult to recommend any one method (and this is hardly the right place). Several people have written documents on this very subject. These may be found in the IF-Archive, in the directory /if-archive/info/ . Of particular note are Graham Nelson's (graham@gnelson.demon.co.uk) "The Craft of Adventure" and Gerry Kevin Wilson's (whizzard@pobox.com) "Whizzard's Guide to Text Adventure Authorship." The filenames for these are Craft.Of.Adventure.* (where * is one of the various formats that it has been translated into) and authorship-guide.{base, sup1, sup2}. Also, there are many excellent articles on game theory and design in the 'zine "XYZZYnews" [What 'zines exist?: 6.5] .

You really ought to betatest your game before releasing it to the general public. Usually, when betatesting a game, the author sends the game out to her betatesters, who work as hard as possible to find bugs, writing flaws, and any other problems with the game and send the author reports. You can find betatesters by posting on the IF newsgroups (but see [What topics are appropriate here?: 2.2] for details on how to post betatester requests), by asking on ifMUD (see [Are there any IF-related chat spaces?: 6.4] ), or by using Lucian Smith and Liza Daly's IF Betatester page. Using their (free, of course) service, the author sends them a game which can be downloaded and tested by any of their registered betatesters (which anybody can sign up to be). More information on this service can be found at <http://plover.net/~textfire/beta.html>.

You can also find betatesters among your friends and other people who have not played IF before; though such a betatester can be useful, it is *very* important that you have at least one or two betatesters from the "IF community" (r*if, ifMUD, TextFire Beta, etc). Only somebody who knows IF well will know where bugs are most likely to crop up.

4.2: Who's going to appreciate my work; who cares about IF anyway?

As it turns out, quite a lot of people. Interactive fiction regularly achieves respectable rankings on the "Internet PC Games Charts" <http://www.worldcharts.com/> and has been as high as #3. Indeed, there were five interactive fiction games in the 1996 Year-end Download Top 40, the highest romping in at #12 (beating Doom), making these games some of the most popular non-commercial computer games in the world.

The six winning entries from the 1995 IF competition [What sort of events does the IF community do?: 2.6] were published by Activision on their CD-ROM release, "Masterpieces of Infocom" (July 1996), which has sold surprisingly well. Activision also uses the Inform authoring system as a prototyping tool for some of their large graphical games (such as "Zork: Grand Inquisitor"), and used an Inform Zork game (by G. Kevin "Whizzard" Wilson, Marc Blank and Mike Berlyn) as a promotion for Z:GI.

Specifically, the readership of the two rec.*.int-fiction newsgroups make up a faithful audience. Popular games such as "Curses" have been played by quite possibly thousands of people worldwide. In this specific case, the game has been downloaded at least 2000 times from two sites (more from other sites, but figures are unavailable), published on at least 4 CDs (probably more without the author's permission) and as a cover disc of two magazines with circulation in the 10000s, and included in commercial packages.

4.3: What about copyright; how can I protect my work?

I'm not a legal expert, so you might want to look at such websites as the U.S. Copyright Office Home Page <http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/> and the Public Record Office of England and Wales <http://www.pro.gov.uk/>.

You should include in your game (perhaps in the response to the HELP command) something saying that you own the copyright on the game, and giving a distribution policy: for example, you may not want it to be distributed for charge, you may not want it distributed at all, or you may not care.

On a somewhat related topic, you should ask John Francis (jfrancis@dungeon.engr.sgi.com) to list you in the file /if-archive/info/author-list.txt at the IF-Archive. You can give him your email address and the distributability status of your game or other IF product.)

On another somewhat related topic, getting commercially sold games, even if they are no longer available, for free is illegal unless the copyright owner has specifically decided to allow distribution. There is no such thing as "abandonware": just because a game or program is no longer sold does not make it legal for you to distribute it. On the other hand, most people are in favor of getting copyright owners to freely distribute abandoned programs, but that choice is up to the owner. This specifically covers most of the Infocom games, but see [Where can I find Infocom games?: 6.7] for more information on that.

4.4: What authoring systems are available?

Though some people simply write their adventures in C, BASIC, and other general languages, this tends to lead to a lot of remaking of the wheel and problems with parsers. Most IF authors choose to use a specialized IF authoring system. Descriptions of them are below.

Tier (i) contains the most popular systems; posts about them are common on raif, and even the least-used one has at least a game or two each year. It contains Hugo, Inform, TADS, and ALAN. These are all good systems, with Inform and TADS the most popular and ported.

Tier (ii) contains systems that are either waning in popularity, or have not started waxing yet, though they are being supported by authors. It contains AGT, Quest, SUDS, ADRIFT and PAWS.

Tier (iii) mostly consists of old systems that never really caught on.

The Unprocessed Tier lists new or previously overlooked systems which should be listed in one of the other tiers but haven't yet been added.

4.4.1: Tier (i)

The most popular and/or powerful, these are currently used by a large number of people; many posts to rec.arts.int-fiction concern these systems and their use; games produced with these systems are guaranteed a relatively large audience.

2.5.03d and 3.0.01d
Kent Tessman (general@generalcoffee.com).
Acorn RISC OS, Amiga, BeOS, MS-DOS, Unix (i.e., Linux, SunOS, etc., with pre-built executables for Linux), OS/2, Win95/NT, and any Glk-supporting platform [What is Glk?: 4.5] including the Macintosh.
The author intends to continue supporting Hugo indefinitely, and is developing further releases of the compiler/engine package. He will take e-mail and respond to posts. In his own words, he will contribute "anything I can offer" to the product. Messages specific to Hugo are posted to rec.arts.int-fiction from time to time.
Programming Knowledge
Owes its origins to Inform, C, and BASIC. It is thus object-oriented, has a straight-forward syntax, and an effort has been made to keep programming as free of punctuation and confusing formatting as much as possible. Much low-level (assembly) programming is done within the system itself (so the user needn't worry about it).
As of v2.4 Hugo supports graphics (in JPEG format) and multiple tiled windows. It also has music in MOD, S3M, MP3, MIDI, and XM format and sound in WAV format. The standard sound package (which the DOS and Windows ports use) allows 32 channels. Full multimedia support is available in the Windows/DOS, BeOS, and X Windows ports. As of v3.0, Hugo even supports movies in MPEG or AVI format. The compiler allows precompiled headers. Features include global events, object-linked events, object/character scripts, hierarchical inheritance and the ability to use objects as classes, dynamic run-time dictionary creation, multiple-turn undo, and (practically) unlimited game file size due to indexed addressing. Hugo allows the programmer to fully manipulate the interpretation of the input line prior to engine parsing.
Documentation and Game Sources
The "Hugo Programming Manual" covers many of Hugo's features and there is an extensively annotated tutorial game, "Vault of Hugo." Currently available game source code include ports of "Adventure" and "Pirate Adventure", and the author's own full-length games, "Spur", "Guilty Bastards", and "Down", and a shell-game to build on.
Online Documentation
Web Pages
Hugo - An Interactive Fiction Authoring System
Jerry's Hugo Site
Debugging Features
The Hugo Debugger, HD, is a full-featured source(ish)-level debugger, which allows code search, watch expressions, breakpoints, and so on. The HugoFix library is a suite of debugging routines allowing the user to monitor, set, and check almost every aspect of a game at run-time.
Freeware, so long as it is distributed in an unmodified manner. Games produced by a user are the property of that author, and may be freely distributed. Only if the game (including any included libraries from Hugo) or the Hugo engine is intended for distribution in any commercial manner (shareware or otherwise) must Kent Tessman be contacted for permission.
Quick Pros and Cons
As it is slightly newer than Inform and TADS, less people are using it and the Glk-based port to Macintosh doesn't have all the graphics and sounds perks (yet). On the bright side, it is quite powerful and offers advanced sound and graphics capabilities. Mac users are very very grateful for the Glk port, which is quite nice in the non-multimedia areas.

All-in-one downloads for Windows and Amiga at Inform for New Writers website: <http://www.iflibrary.com/ifnw/>
6.21. Library 6/10. (Also, 6.21(G0.32) for glulx is in beta.)
Graham Nelson (graham@gnelson.demon.co.uk). Glulx features by Andrew Plotkin (erkyrath@eblong.com).
Acorn RISC OS, BeOS, Macintosh, Atari ST (latest release 5.4, may be unsupported), Amiga, IBM PC (on pre-386, release 5.5 only), Linux, OS/2, UNIX, VMS (for DEC VAX or Alpha), and EPOC (the Psion 5/Revo/7 handhelds). The ZMachine interpreters needed to play Inform games compiled for the ZMachine (that is, those that don't use glulx) are available for these platforms and many more.
The author fixes library bugs whenever they are reported, and issues updates about every three months. The compiler is updated approximately twice a year, and the documentation is now in its 3rd edition (with an update May 1997). Feedback from users is welcomed. There are a large number of relevant posts to rec.arts.int-fiction.
Programming Knowledge
Compiles a largely object oriented language, reminiscent of C. A quite sophisticated parser is supplied, which can be entirely invisible to the designer but is highly programmable if need be. The library is itself written in Inform and is relatively easy to modify.
Produces files in the `Z-machine' format, as used by Infocom. Thus Inform games can be played on any of the many publicly available `Z-machine' interpreters. A standard library is supplied; it is possible to replace library routines. The run-time format does now permit dynamic object creation. Low-level programming is provided for, including a full assembler.

The parser can be supplied with a language definition file allowing Inform games to be played in non-English languages. Translations of Inform have been made into German, Spanish, Italian and Renaissance English, with several others in development. These translations are linked from Graham Nelson's website (see below).

A system called "Blorb", for convenient attachment of sound effects and modern-quality graphics, has now been fully implemented by Kevin Bracey's "Zip2000" interpreter.

An alternate version can compile to the "Glulx" format, which allows advanced I/O capalities and removes many of the ZMachine's arbirtrary size restrictions.

Documentation and Game Sources
The main manual is the "Designer's Manual"; the "Technical Manual" documents very dry internals; the "Specification of the Z-Machine" defines the run-time format and the standard for interpreters (an alternative to this last document is "The Z-machine, and How To Emulate It"). A handful of game sources are available. The Inform Translator's Manual documents language definition files.

The latest (fourth) edition of the Designer's Manual in PDF can be downloaded from the IF Archive </if-archive/infocom/compilers/inform6/manuals/designers_manual_4.pdf>. An HTML version is also available (see next section 'Online Documentation'.)

The Inform Beginners Guide is an excellent introduction to writing IF with Inform.<http://www.firthworks.com/roger/IBG.html>

(Both the Designer's Manual and Beginner's Guide may also be available as paperback book. Check <http://www.iflibrary.com?PageId=Store> for the latest details.)

Online Documentation
The Inform Designer's Manual
The Z-Machine Standards Document 1.0
Web Pages
Inform 6: A Compiler For Interactive Fiction
The Inform FAQ
Inform Tricks
The Informary (and other much other helpful material) can be found at Roger Firth's website
Inform for New Writers, David Cornelson
Inform for Beginners, Jeff Johnson
Glulx: A 32-Bit Virtual Machine for IF
Gull - beginning with Glulx <http://adamcadre.ac/gull>
The Inform Library Patch Site
Inform Page (somewhat old)
Inform Programming (old, outdated)
Debugging Features
Can print tracing information for calls to routines and a suite of debugging verbs is included in the library: these monitor timers, daemons, actions, the object tree, messages between objects, the parser's internal workings and the like, and give the tester supernatural powers to travel and move things around. The library can also record and play back scripts of commands. Tools such as TXD (a disassembler) and Infodump (an inspector of objects, dictionary and grammar) are publicly available.

As of Inform 6.21, you can compile your games with "Infix" debugging mode. This allows the author to use a variety of debugging verbs to examine and change the game's state in a way similar to the programming of Inform itself. You can trace references to a routine or object.

Inform can also produce a file of information useful to any debugging tool, with, for example, Z-machine PC positions assigned to every statement of source code.

There are some help-tools to configure various text editors to Inform, too; the Technical Manual provides an algorithm for syntax-colouring Inform code which is used in several of these.

Freeware. The author retains copyright of the compiler in order to prevent commercial exploitation, but (subject only to mild restrictions) is prepared to let people sell games produced by Inform.
Quick Pros and Cons
It is the most highly ported authoring system, and is quite popular. It is very powerful; some of the very advanced techniques are difficult to understand, though. Though it has a few more ports than TADS, HTML-TADS' graphics and sound support are both more powerful and more usable (at the current time) than Inform's. Also, the ZMachine suffers from the fact that extraordinarily large (and I mean really really big) games do not fit in it. However, for a normal-sized, text-only game that doesn't do extraordinarily complicated hacks (most games fit this description), Inform's problems do not hurt at all, and the glulx virtual machine fixes some of these problems.

TADS (Text Adventure Development System)
Version 2.5.5.
Michael Roberts (mjr_ at hotmail dot com).
Acorn RISC OS (interpreter only), AmigaDOS, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECStation, Linux, Macintosh, MS-DOS (also GO32 DOS extender version for 386+), NeXT, OS/2, SGI Iris/Indigo, SunOS & Sun 3.
Posts to rec.arts.int-fiction dealing with all manner of TADS queries are not uncommon, and there are many third-party programming examples and utilities, including WorldClass, Alt and Pianosa, complete replacement libraries.
Programming Knowledge
Uses a high-level, largely object-oriented language very reminiscent of Pascal or C.
Provides virtual memory support, permitting games much larger than your computer's physical memory. Full multiple inheritance is supported, and incremental changes can be made to library files so one can include the standard library and override bits of it piece by piece. Objects may be created at run-time (dynamic object creation). TADS also provides multiple UNDO, routines for general-purpose file I/O, and "user exits" that let one link in code compiled with other languages (such as C).

TADS allows you to write your game using HTML TADS, which allows you to add styled text, still graphics, sound, and MIDI music to your TADS games. Rather than relying on some proprietary markup language, HTML TADS uses standard HTML, the language used to mark up Web pages, for which documentation is readily available. (However, HTML TADS doesn't need a web browser or the Internet: it uses HTML but isn't a Web-based system.) HTML TADS also supports ISO Latin-1 character sets, so accented letters are easily added.

At the time of writing, HTML TADS interpreters are only available for Windows 95/98/NT and Macintosh. However, a game written in HTML TADS is still fully playable (minus graphics and sound, of course) with character-based TADS runtimes that have been updated to at least version 2.2.6.

The Windows port of TADS 2.5 and up comes with "Visual Workbench", an integrated development environment including the compiler, debugger, runtime, and an editor. It can even create self-enclosed executable installater programs for Windows for your TADS games.

Documentation and Game Sources
TADS' comprehensive manual is available in TeX, PDF and HTML formats, although the HTML version is the most current. At the moment, TADS documentation is a little scattered between the TADS manual (<http://www.tela.bc.ca/tela/tads-manual/>), the TADS Parser Manual in /if-archive/programming/tads2/manuals/tads_pm.zip , and the HTML TADS Revision Notes, available with HTML TADS. Neil K. Guy is working on updating the main TADS manual to include the information from the Parser Manual. Lastly, you might want to look at the slightly outdated but still useful TADS Tip Sheet at <http://www.tela.bc.ca/tela/tads-manual/tads-tip-sheet.html>.

In addition to the manual the full source for a medium-sized game, Ditch Day Drifter, is available from the usual sources. The source code for many other games, from small and simple to huge and complex, is also readily available.

Mark Engelberg has written a tutorial for TADS. It can be found on the IF-Archive as /if-archive/programming/tads2/manuals/TADSTutorial.zip .

Online Documentation
TADS Author's Manual
TADS Manuals directory on the IF-Archive
Web Pages
The TADS Page
Official TADS homepage
The Apple Macintosh TADS Home Page
Debugging Features
TDB is a full-featured source-level debugger. It allows single-stepping through your source, the setting of breakpoints at specific lines, and the examination and alteration of variables in your program.
Quick Pros and Cons
It is very popular and powerful powerful. It has better graphics support than Inform/ZMachine, and HTML TADS is available on the Mac (which is not the case for graphical Hugo). Its library is very object-oriented, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on who you are. It has slightly less ports than Inform/ZMachine, especially to ancient computers like the C64 and small computers like the PalmPilot. On the other hand, the reason is can't run on the PalmPilot is that it allows games of any size whatsoever, which is good if your game needs to be huge.

ALAN (Adventure LANguage system)
2.8, with various correction levels for different platforms.
Thomas Nilsson (thomas.nilsson@progindus.se) and Göran Forslund (gorfo@ida.liu.se).
Amiga, Macintosh, MS-DOS (currently only 386+), sun4 (Solaris1, SunOS 4.1), sun4 (Solaris2, SunOS 5.x). A HP-UX version of 2.8 is upcoming, though a 2.7 version exists. There is also a Glk [What is Glk?: 4.5] version.
As a non-profit project author support may vary, although the authors will endeavor to act on bug reports sent by e-mail. Most ALAN questions on raif will be answered by other ALAN users.
Programming Knowledge
Uses a very high-level language. With an easy-to-learn syntax and semantics, ALAN takes a descriptive view of the concepts of adventure authoring. There are no variables, subroutines or other traditional programming constructs. A general statement which describes the ALAN philosophy is that a game's author should not need to program, only describe, what the player will see.
Actors may be scripted and rules are evaluated between each actors turn which can trigger actions. Events can be triggered by objects, actors or locations. Expansion of the parser syntax is simple. ALAN lacks actor interaction and inheritance (although a prototype of v3.0 supports this). General verbs can be overridden both for locations and objects on which they are invoked. There is support for multinational character input.
Documentation and Game Sources
The manual, available separately in PostScript, HTML, and ASCII formats, contains a lot of detail on all aspects of IF authorship from a beginner's level upwards. A few examples of ALAN source are available, including the source to the games "Saviour" and "Skipping Breakfast".
Online Documentation
ALAN Adventure Language Manual & Beginners' Tutorial
Web Pages
The Alan Home Pages
Using Alan on MS Windows PCs
Debugging Features
The debugger currently supports viewing (but not altering) of most data, tracing of significant parts of the execution and single-stepping though compiled code.
The compiler and interpreter source code is written in C.
Freeware. The interpreter may be freely distributed with compiled games for commercial purposes (i.e., no fee or royalties are required if you start to sell games).
Quick Pros and Cons
It isn't as powerful as the other Tier (i) systems. However, it is apparently easier to learn.

4.4.2: Tier (ii)

Intermediate popularity and new systems, these do not appeal to quite as large an audience as those in tier (i) or are less powerful; there are infrequent posts to rec.arts.int-fiction dealing with these systems and their use; occasionally games are produced using these systems.

AGT (Adventure Game Toolkit)
Version 1.7 (may vary between platforms). But if you want to use AGT, use MAGX and AGiliTy instead of the original. Please.
David Malmberg (73435.1277@compuserve.com) and Mark Welch (markwelch@ca-probate.com).
Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh, MS-DOS, Windows. There seem to be many different versions for different platforms.
No technical support from the authors (i.e., no new versions). Posts to rec.arts.int-fiction are not uncommon.
Programming Knowledge
Uses a meta-language similar to English. Standard Level games can be created with no prior programming knowledge.
Creates Standard Level games ("require no programming experience (honestly!), only a fertile imagination") or Professional Level games. There are limitations on the number of locations (200) and animate/inanimate objects (100 each) in a game. As AGT is no longer supported by the authors there will be no future upgrades/bug-fixes. It is not nearly as powerful as the Tier (i) systems, and many games are unportable from DOS.

There is also now two programs, MAGX and AGiliTy, which are more portable and less buggy than the original AGT programs. However, they do not improve the language itself much.

Documentation and Game Sources
The documentation available on the Internet is out-of-date in regard to author support (which no longer applies) and licensing details (AGT is now freeware). Included is the source for a small game, Crusade. Other source for some two dozen games is publicly available. Mark Welch has 50-100 copies of the final "Master's Edition" printed manual and would invite suggestions from AGT users on how he might disseminate them at no charge. He *does not* have the "Master's Edition" source code though.
Online Documentation
Web Page
AGT Home Page
MAGX webpage
AGT-authors mailing list page
Debugging Features
A few basic debugging commands (such as MOVEPLAYER and LISTROOMS) to be used at run-time.
Turbo Pascal 4.0/5.0/5.5/6.0. Magx and AGiliTy are written in ANSI C.
Freeware. Games produced with AGT are freely distributable in whatever manner you choose.
Quick Pros and Cons
I really wish I could put more pros here. When AGT was first released, ages ago, it was an improvement over what little IF creation software existed at the time. However, there really is nothing it can do that Inform or TADS can't easily do, and unlike the tier (i) systems, it is not expandable. That is a key point: in Inform, Hugo, and TADS, you can basically get it to do what you want, at least in terms of the internal world (if not multimedia output). This is not the case for AGT. It is poorly ported. And, though some claim it to be easy to learn, others find AGT source incomprehensible. You can write a good game in AGT. It's much easier if you just use a different system.

Alex Warren (alex@axeuk.com).
Windows 95 or later.
Please email all technical questions, enquiries, bug reports etc. to alex@axeuk.com.
Programming Knowledge
None required. Quest comes with a visual editor (QDK), plus full documentation on the "ASL" programming language used, if you wish to code games by hand rather than using the visual editor. "ASL" is an easy-to-use language without much in the way of confusing syntax, designed with ease-of-use in mind.
Pretty much unlimited in any way; memory is allocated dynamically, so in theory games of any size could be created. Easy-to-use interface; built-in multimedia support for WAV and various image file formats (including BMP, GIF, and JPEG); save/load facility; text formatting; built-in support for items, characters, objects, selections, string and numeric variables, conditional statements, and user-defined commands; error checking. Its built-in library isn't as advanced as some of the Tier (i) systems in terms of IF capability, but it allows more graphical Win32 power than them. Users can use QDK, the Quest Development Kit, to create Quest games without any programming.
Documentation and Game Sources
QDK and ASL reference plus small sample game included in Quest download. Al Bampton's ASL tutorial is also included.
Online Documentation
Web Page
Quest Home Page
Al Bampton's Tips and Resources for Quest
Debugging Features
All variables can be watched via debug windows, and a log file can be optionally saved.
Not available.
Quest may be used free of charge, but you are encouraged to upgrade to Quest Pro for UKú15.95 (US$24.95) via credit card or cheque. Quest Pro includes the full version of QDK plus QCompile which allows you to encrypt your games so the code cannot be read or edited. The free version of Quest is capable of running games from both unencrypted ASL source code and encrypted "CAS" code files.

SUDS Player: SUDS Constructor:
Andy Elliot (support@sudslore.com).
Windows 9X/98/NT/2000/XP.
The author will continue to improve and develop SUDS for the foreseeable future in the light of feedback and functionality requests, both of which are welcome. Andy endeavours to respond to all queries and suggestions within a maximum of five business days.
Programming Knowledge
Aimed at writers rather than coders, SUDS requires little or no programming knowledge, although it does demand the ability to think logically. SUDS enables users to build sophisticated event-driven procedures via a simple Cut and Paste mouse-driven interface. Syntax and construction of commands is handled automatically by the program. Design environment is modelled on object-oriented development packages such as Visual Basic.
Games are designed in the SUDS Constructor, which outputs the game as a single file. Games can be installed and run in the SUDS Player without compilation. Games are wholly text, although a "welcome" graphic can be specified. However, keyboard entry is replaced with a simple cursor-driven mouse interface: there is no parser and games consist of putting together words on the screen, like in the LucasArts graphical adventure games. A graphical map is automatically maintained during play, and players can add their own notes to each location. Event-driven procedures are triggered by player actions or between-turns housekeeping. There is a dedicated conversation interface with a drag-and-drop tree editor. The map editor is wholly graphical. You can have up to 32767 of each of Objects, Scenery, People, and Rooms. The map size is unlimited. Unfortunately, because code is not edited as textual source, you cannot export code to share with others.
Documentation and Game Sources
In addition to the documentation packaged with the applications, FAQs and information on upgrades are available on the SUDS website.
Online Documentation
Included in the SUDS download.
Web Page
Debugging Features
The SUDS Player contains fully integrated debugging features which can be enabled from the Constructor for a game. These include the ability to report on the attributes of every game item and all system variables, to move the player to any location, and to take or drop any item. An in-game procedure monitor gives the ability to view procedures, step through code, skip over individual code lines or procedures, evaluate conditions, and pre-decide the result of decision points.
Borland Delphi (Object Pascal) using a proprietary database.
The SUDS Player and Constructor are both freeware: there is no fee for installation or use. SUDS-format games may be distributed for profit at the author's discretion.
Quick Pros and Cons
If you want a Windows-only program with a good IDE and dialog-box-based programming instead of text-based programming, and you do not mind that SUDS players converse with your game by a simple point and click interface, then SUDS is probably the system for you: it shows every sign of being written with care for that purpose. The main disadvantages in comparison to more traditional systems are that it is a Windows-only program and doesn't have a parser-based user interface like most IF.

Campbell Wild (campbell@adrift.org.uk).
Windows 95/98/NT4.
The author enthusiastically supports ADRIFT and is actively developing and improving the system.
Programming Knowledge
ADRIFT does not require previous programming experience (though the ability to think logically and in depth is required.) Games are developed in a forms-based graphical user interface so no 'programming code' needs to be written.
Games are written entirely within the easy-to-use GUI forms environment called the ADRIFT generator. Has multimedia support for the addition of both images and sounds to a game. The ADRIFT interpreter automatically builds a game map during play. While 'programming' in the ADRIFT system is fast and straightforward because of the well-designed GUI environment it naturally cannot match the flexibility of the code-based systems (but the inflexibility is not necessarily a problem as ready-made structures provided within ADRIFT meet all the requirements needed for most text adventure games.)
Documentation and Game Sources
A Tutorial (in HTML format) and sample games are available for download at the website.
Online Documentation
The Tutorial can be read online at <http://www.jcwild.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/tutorial/<
Web Page
ADRIFT Homepage
Debugging Features
A graphical outline of 'task dependancies' is available within the ADRIFT generator GUI. The runtime interpret, the 'Runner', includes a 'debugger' which allows the author to view the current status of objects, characters etc and make live changes to the status values.
Written in Visual Basic 6. Not generally released to the public.
Freeware. Both the Generator and 'Runner' software can be freely distributed and there are no restrictions on distribution or commercial release of games written with ADRIFT.
Quick Pros and Cons
ADRIFT provides an approachable dialog-box-based programming environment which may appeal to aspiring IF authors without programming experience. Sufficient capabilities are provided within that environment to capabably produce conventional text adventure games, optionally with multimedia enhancements. The main disadvantage, besides the inherent limitations of a forms-based programming interface is that the games can only be played under the various MS Windows operating systems.

Wolf (wolf@one.net).
Any OS supporting the Python language (includes MS Windows, Apple Mac, Linux, MSDOS.)
Actively supported by the PAWS author.
Programming Knowledge
The PAWS language is intended to be fairly easy for beginners to pick. Setting up the Python environment may not be all that easy on some systems.
PAWS is the Python Adventure Writing System. It is a set of libraries that sits on top of the Python scripting language <http://www.python.org/> to let you write IF.
Documentation and Game Sources
Available at the PAWS website
Online Documentation
Tutorial at website
Web Page
Debugging Features
PAWS has a debug mode which lets you view and change variables while the game is running, you can disable debugging in the game when you release it.
Written in Python, source is included and is heavily commented to aid authors who want to explore the code.
Quick Pros and Cons
Games can be developed and played a lot of systems because the Python language has been widely ported. The size of the Python language download is a disincentive for people to play PAWS games though.

4.4.3: Tier (iii)

Little current popularity, these are not generally popular; they often cater to only a small number of platforms (usually only MS-DOS) and may be less advanced or more specialized (such as handling graphics- or multimedia-based games) than systems in the other tiers; games are rarely produced with these systems.

ADL (Adventure Definition Language)
Adventure Builder
/if-archive/programming/advbuilder/ MSDOS/Win3.x system. Homepage at <http://www.accessone.com/~conroy/ab.html>
AdvSys (Adventure System)
/if-archive/programming/archetype/ A highly object-oriented, bare-bones system.
/if-archive/programming/aventuro/ A system in Esperanto.
DROOL (Dave's Reworked Object Oriented Language)
GAGS (Generic Adventure Game System)
/if-archive/programming/gags/ The precursor to AGT.
GINAS (Generic Interactive Narrative Authoring System)
/if-archive/programming/ginas/ An experimental, lisp-like system.
GTAC (Graphic Text Adventure Creator)
/if-archive/programming/gtac/ Creates a complete playable adventure game without losing the friendliness of the Acorn Desktop.
LADS (Levi's Adventure Development System)
/if-archive/programming/lads/ Produces games with a distinct "Scott Adams" look and feel. The state of the art of IF authoring systems is today well beyond this, yet LADS is still a workable, if primitive, system in its own right.
NMP (NM Parser)
/if-archive/programming/nmp/ A Spanish-language system.
/if-archive/programming/rexx-adventure/ For OS/2, a freeware object-based adventure creation with a GUI interface. Webpage at <http://www.io.com/~desantom/rad.html>
SINTAC (Sistema Integrado de Creacion de Aventuras Conversacionales)
/if-archive/programming/sintac/ A Spanish-language system.

4.4.4: Unprocessed

These systems are either new, or are experimental or beta-release systems and as such may not have the popular and immediate appeal of systems in other tiers.

http://www.robin.rawsontetley.btinternet.co.uk/_Iage The Internet Adventure Game Engine (an open-source system in development)

A NOTE ON AUTHOR SUPPORT: While most authors are happy to accept email concerning their system please remember that reading and responding to email does take time. While bug reports, requests/suggestions for new features, etc. should be sent to the author directly, questions on how to implement a particular feature or operate a particular function should go to rec.arts.int-fiction, where time is not an issue. Bug reports for the authoring systems should probably be both emailed to the author, who can fix them, and posted to raif, so that other readers can realize that the bug exists. (Bug reports for games other than the Infocom ones should not be posted to rec.games.int-fiction, but rather emailed to the author. A bug in an authoring system can create bugs in other people's games; a bug in a game can't do that.)

You should also realize that, especially if you are not paying for the system, the system authors have no "responsibility" to the community to update their program. There was once a nasty stir on raif in which a poster ordered Graham Nelson, who had been unable to read the newsgroup for a while for various reasons, to update Inform. Graham and the other authors have put a lot of hard work into their systems, and probably will continue to do so. But if they wanted to stop, they could. (After many messages asserting that point were posted, the thread died down. This was shortly followed by a new version of Inform.)

A NOTE ON LICENSING: Games written with some authoring systems, notably Hugo, may not be distributed for money (shareware or commercial) without the system author's express consent. You should always read and abide by any and all licensing details relating to the system which you choose. If you do not like the licensing arrangements, use a different system. Of course, system authors are (usually) good human beings, and will probably say yes.

4.5: What is Glk?

It is a standard for text-based I/O, designed by Andrew "zarf" Plotkin. Complete information can be found at <http://www.eblong.com/zarf/glk/>.

Here is a brief description of it, plagiarized from LucFrench and Zarf's descriptions on raif:

GLK is a spec for porting Input/Output code across platforms. In order to understand why it's necessary, one must understand a bit about I/O.

A Unix machine has a different way of printing to the screen than a Mac, since one is primarily text based, and the other is a graphical windowing enviroment. As such, they have two *very* different ways of outputting data, particularly for some of the special effects that many high level IF systems need (e.g., a status line, picture, color, etc.).

So, porting the I/O can be difficult. What Glk attempts to do is specify a set of calls to the Glk system that allows for easy porting across multiple platforms.

The Glk calls are intended to be not only portable, but to be *easily* portable: abstracted in such a way that they give the interpreter maximum flexibility. This allows interpreters on different platforms to take advantage of particular UI features.

A port of Dungeon, a scripting language, interpreters for the major IF languages, and a few demos have been ported to Glk. If you are writing an IF interpreter or similar program, consider using Glk. It'll make everyone happy.

4.6: What are VILE 0 ERRORS FROM HELL, and how should I avoid them in Inform?

It is illegal on the ZMachine that Inform compiles to to do any of the following when x == 0 (nothing):

child(x), parent(x), sibling(x), etc
if (x has attribute)
if (x.property == ...)
give x attribute
x.property = ...
move x to y
move y to x
remove x
... or pretty much anything else which assumes x is a legitimate object.

Some interpreters will ignore this, and either end up not messing up, or crash. In the former case, this means that you will falsely believe there is nothing wrong with your game. In the latter case, it, well, crashes.

MaxZip, and some other Zip interpreters, will check and warn at these illegal statements.

There is a bug in the Inform library (version 6/7) that will cause this in the HasLightSource function. You should patch this immediately if for some reason your are still using library 6/7.

In the library file parserm, find the function HasLightSource. Near the top, there are the lines:

   if (i has enterable || IsSeeThrough(i)==1)
   {   objectloop (i in i)
           if (HasLightSource(i)==1) rtrue;

This should be

   if (i has enterable || IsSeeThrough(i)==1)
   {   objectloop (j in i)
           if (HasLightSource(j)==1) rtrue;

In other words, change two i's to j's.

Library 6/8 and later fixes this and a few other uncommon V0EsFH.

Much more information on the subject of VILE 0 ERRORS FROM HELL can be found at <http://www.eblong.com/zarf/vileerror.html>, thanks to Andrew Plotkin, who made everyone aware of this problem and helped with this article.

As of Inform 6.20, VILE 0 ERRORS FROM HELL and other common Inform problems are caught at run-time by compiled-in checking routines. There is much rejoicing! Unfortunately, if this "strict" mode is turned off, Inform 6.20 (though not the newer 6.21 which should be used instead of 6.20) creates buggy code; and Library 6/8 in strict mode is too large to fit in a module, meaning that you can't create strict library modules. Inform 6.20 should *not* be used due to its bugs in non-strict mode: either stick with a lower version or upgrade to 6.21.

Inform 6.20 and up also classifies objectloop errors as V0EsFH and catches them. These are another common cause of problems in Inform. As most Inform programmers know, objectloop (x) { ... } will run ... once for each object in the game, setting 'x' to that object. Here's the problem:

objectloop (foo in someobject)
   move foo to somewhereelse;

You'd think this moves every object in someobject to somewhereelse. But it doesn't. This is becase objectloop(a in b) {...} is optimized. Instead of being equivalent to

   if (a in b)

it is the same as

for (a = child(b); a ~= 0; a = sibling(a))

In other words, it simply strolls along the object tree. If a is moved out of b, it will make the next a be equal to the sibling of the current a, which will not be what you want.

The solution is, for the simple case of "move all children of foo to bar":

while (children(foo) ~= 0) move child(foo) to bar;

For anything more complicated than that, use:

   if (a in b)
The same problem can occur in the little-used 'x from object' and 'x near object' versions, though not in any other ones (such as 'x ofclass c'). Inform 6.20 and up will catch these at run-time.

4.7: How do I find bug fixes for Inform?

Recent versions of Inform's library and compiler have introduced some annoying bugs and weird ways of parsing. Though Graham Nelson fixes these in new versions of the Inform library, between releases you can look at the official Inform Patch Site at <http://www.inform-fiction.org/patches/index.html>, maintained by Adam Cadre.

4.8: What editors can I use to write IF?

Using a programmer's editor rather than a general-purpose text editor or a wordprocessor is a very helpful aid to writing IF. There are many text editors that are useful for writing IF. The following list describes some of them. There are also some text editors and 'integrated development environments' specifically written to work with a particular IF language. These are also listed below. If you have any corrections or suggestions, feel free to email them to me. Most of the following descriptions were written by others; I'd like to thank everyone who helped me. However, I edited them, so any incorrect statements are probably my fault.

4.9: What tools and utilities are available?

Bjorn Gustavsson (ermbgus@at.ericsson.se) has written this Perl script which converts the old Scott Adams games to Inform source (you compile this with the Inform compiler and then play the resulting gamefile on any `Z-machine' interpreter).

John Elliott's (jce@seasip.demon.co.uk) utility will "disassemble" Spectrum snapshots (.SNA) of games written with The Quill. Available as C source and executables for DOS and CP/M.

This package, maintained by Matthew T. Russotto (russotto@wanda.vf.pond.com), comprises several tools, including a disassembler, for manipulating games in the `Z-machine' format as used by Infocom and produced by Inform. They are quite useful. There are ports to many platforms.

Jeremy A. Smith's program takes output data from TXD and INFODUMP (two components of Ztools; see above), mangles it up, and outputs it in an Inform-like way. It makes disassembly of Z-machine code a *lot* more readable. It doesn't (yet) create completely compilable code, and is by no means the same as what was written, but is higher level than ZMachine assembly.

4.10: Wouldn't a visual system be great for writing IF in?

This has been discussed a lot.

The general consensus seemed to be that they would be helpful, but only if they allowed the writer to get at the bare Inform or TADS code underneath and not use only high-level editing.

Also, it was realized that such tools currently don't exist because the people with the skills to write them generally don't need them. There is an Inform IDE (Integrated Development Environment) or three in the works, and TADS comes with Visual Workbench, but IDEs are not what is usually meant by "visual".

However, if you want to write a visual IF editing tool, great. Show us the results. Just don't wander in and ask somebody else to write one for you.

The Quest system [System:Quest] includes QDK, a visual development tool. However, Quest isn't quite as advanced as Inform or TADS, requiring you to code just about everything from scratch. SUDS [System:SUDS] is quite visual; however, the games it creates do not have a parser and are more like a point-and-click game.

4.11: What support does Inform offer for graphics and sounds?

The ZMachine's V6 format supports graphics, and Inform can compile to it quite well. Jason Penney has written a library called V6Lib, available at the IF-Archive, that allows you to use a high-level window system (instead of having to do the ZMachine opcodes by hand).

However (and this is a big however), almost all current V6 ZMachine interpreters (and not all ZMachine interpreters will do V6) only supports display of horrible graphics format used by Infocom in some of their later games. It is horrible because it is proprietary (no tools exist to write to it) and has many technical problems, such as the fact that you can only use a *very* limited amount of colors (14, I think).

The Blorb format is a new way of getting images (in PNG or JPEG format) and other 'resources' to interface with ZMachine interpreters. Now, when I say "new", I mean it was proposed a few years ago. Barely any interpreters support it yet. Because of this, no games have been written that use Blorb. Because of this, barely any interpreters support Blorb. Because of this...

And so on goes the vicious circle. A similar situation exists for sounds: there are ZMachine opcodes for sound playing, but Blorb is required to make it work well.

Inform Glk [What is Glk?: 4.5] support would be useful; there exists at least two ZMachine interpreters that uses Glk (Evin Robertson's Nitfol and GlkZip), but there is no way to access the Glk functions from Inform: the Glk support of these interpreters allows the *interpreters* to be easily ported, but not access to Glk from within the game.

glulx solves all these problems and more. glulx is a virtual machine designed by Andrew "Zarf" Plotkin that is like the ZMachine, but without its limits. An alternate version of Inform can compile to it. Once Glulx Inform (currently at version 6.21(G0.30)) is fully tested, it will become part of the main Inform distribution. Glulx uses Glk as its native interface, so all of Glk's IO abilities will be usable from it. For now, look at <http://www.eblong.com/zarf/glulx/>.

4.12: What support does TADS offer for graphics and sounds?

Early in 1998, a new version of TADS called HTML-TADS was released by Mike Roberts, the author of TADS. It is the same as TADS, except that it allows formatted output. The format can control text and background color, images, sounds, and other cool things. The format is controlled by use of a limited form of HTML (the language used on the web). HTML-TADS has nothing to do with the Internet or the Web or Java; it simply uses tags like <IMG> and <B> and <A HREF>.

The only platforms that (as of April 1999) the HTML-TADS runtime has been ported to are Windows 95/98/NT and Macintosh. The compiler, though, is the same as a normal TADS compiler.

Neil K. Guy's TADS site has more information about HTML-TADS: <http://www.tela.bc.ca/tela/tads/>.

Several games have been created that take advantage of HTML-TADS, including Neil K. Guy's "The Golden Skull" and "The Landing"; Stephen Granade's "The Arrival"; and Mike Roberts' "The Plant". As of late 1999, HTML-TADS is probably the best way to do a relatively portable graphical game.

4.13: What support does Hugo offer for graphics and sounds?

Hugo provides support for a bunch of different graphics and sound formats. Graphics and sounds only are on the Windows 95/98/NT, DOS, BeOS, and X Windows ports, though, but that includes most computers except Macs. The picture placement commands do not allow too much precision, unless you mess around with tricky window creation commands. Simple stuff works well, but more complicated stuff is harder, though possible.

4.14: Which IF system should I use?

This is probably the most frequently asked question on rec.arts.int-fiction. Every answer has been different.

The truth of the matter is that there isn't much that TADS can do but Inform can't or vice versa, and Hugo is just about as good as the top two; it is just that some things require a bit more work than others on some systems. ALAN is also not a bad choice; it is not as powerful as the other three but some have found it easier to use.

It has been commented that the most difficult thing to learn in any IF language is not the syntax of the language but its world model. Knowing the peculiarities of the language is easy compared to understanding the interactions between the objects of your game world. If you can write IF at all, then you can certainly master any of the major languages. Many have.

If you are still concerned about the syntax of the various languages, you can check out Roger Firth's "Cloak of Darkness" at <http://homepages.tesco.net/~roger.firth/cloak/>. This project has the source code for a simple game in many of the main IF languages, complete with comments on how it works. You can look at it to see a sample of how each language works.

4.15: How do I create a standalone executable program out of an IF game?

Often, authors want to create an executable version of their game for a particular platform so that players do not need to download a separate interpreter program. While this is not a bad idea, one does need to remember that the whole reason that most IF systems need interpreters is so that the game files can be played on just about every type of computer without the author needing to compile a Windows version, a Mac version, a Unix version, an Amiga version, etc of every single game. Also, because interpreters are not bundled with every single TADS, ZMachine, or whatever game on the IF-Archive, the game files are much smaller. A Windows executable (for example) is completely useless to a Mac user, and doubly so when at heart the executable contains a file that could be run on the Mac if available separately. So an author really should make sure that the platform-independent game file is available even if she makes a standalone version.

That said, there are several ways to make standalone executables. On Windows, ZMachine (that is, Inform) games can be made executable with jzexe, a tool packaged with jzip, and the TADS Workbench comes with a tool that not only puts TADS games into executable files but even gives them customizable installers. You can also use maketrx, which is included with TADS, on DOS for games that don't require Windows, but the full TADS workbench is probably preferable for recent computers.

On Macs, MaxZip (for Inform ZMachine), MaxTADS, and MacGlk Hugo all allow easy creation of standalone games. Andrew Plotkin, author of the Max interpreters, has offered to create a Mac executable of any TADS, Inform, or Hugo game for authors who don't have access to a Mac; he will even upload it to a popular Mac ftp site and make it a pretty icon. (The default TADS runtime also can be binded to a game, but it's better to use MaxTADS.)

On some versions of Unix, jzexe has been reported to work. However, if you're on Unix, you're probably smart enough to read a README and download the proper interpreter.

BundleMonkey, by L. Ross Raszewski, is a utility which can be used to package a gamefile, plus auxilliary files, together with any Windows or MSDOS interpreter program into a single executable file. <http://justice.loyola.edu/~lraszews/if/monkey.zip>

Part 5: Writing IF

This part of the FAQ answers the question "What has been written on the subject...".

5.1: ...in general?

Several papers on IF design and theory are available from the IF-Archive [What is the IF-Archive?: 6.1] , in /if-archive/info/ . These are mostly available as ASCII files, although some also exist in other formats.

Graham Nelson's (graham@gnelson.demon.co.uk) "The Craft of Adventure" (available from the IF-Archive) is a treatise on writing interactive fiction. This is currently in its 2nd edition and is also available as TeX source. HTML versions are available from "The TADS Page" and <http://www.inform-fiction.org> in PDF or HTML formats.

Gerry Kevin Wilson (whizzard@pobox.com) has thoughtfully published his views on designing and writing interactive fiction in "Whizzard's Guide to Text Adventure Authorship" (available from the IF-Archive). There are also two supplementary updates to this document.

Gil Williamson's (gil@cix.co.uk) book "Computer Adventures, The Secret Art" is now available as "literary freeware" (at <http://www.cix.co.uk/~gil/data/ca-tsa.htm>). This is primarily a "how to..." manual, and although many of the technical details are several years out of date, the book contains much of interest to the aspiring interactive fiction author.

The Oz Project, directed by Joseph Bates at the Carnegie-Mellon School of Computer Science, is developing technology for high quality interactive fiction. Focusing on the simulations behind the interface (which they call the deep structure of virtual reality) their goal is to provide users with the experience of living in a dramatically interesting simulated world populated with simulated people.

Michael St. Hippolyte's (mash@interport.net) paper, "A Plot Beyond A Line: New Ways to Be Nonlinear" <http://www.users.interport.net/~mash/nonlin.html>) looks at the problems of linearity in interactive fiction, and suggests some possible solutions.

David A. Graves's (dag@cup.hp.com) three papers, "Second Generation Adventure Games" (which focuses on the physical world model, parsing, text generation, and simple agent planning), "Bringing Characters to Life" (a summary of the progress in Artificial Personality during the 70's and 80's), and "Plot Automation" based on his presentation at the Computer Game Developer's Conference in 1991. All of his papers are available from the IF-Archive.

Authoring system manuals may be of interest, even if you do not use the particular system. Look for these in the IF-Archive, in the directory /if-archive/programming/<authoring system name>/manual/, where <authoring system name> is, for example, tads. Also, there is online documentation available for several authoring systems, as noted under "[Online Documentation]" in the authoring system records [What authoring systems are available?: 4.4] .

The TADS Manual contains useful advice on designing an interactive fiction game (chapter 6), some of which is TADS-specific, and some honest information on the limitations of the text adventure format (appendix B).

The Inform "Designer's Manual" details the step-by-step implementation of a small game as a tutorial throughout the manual (this is, of course, Inform-specific).

For further references try Stephen Granade's (sgranade@phy.duke.edu) "Interactive Fiction Bibliography" (1997), available from the IF-Archive in /if-archive/info/if-bibliography.txt .

5.2: ...of the art of writing NPCs?

Phil Goetz (goetz@cs.buffalo.edu) has made available two of his papers: his overview of computerized interactive fiction (in DVI, LaTeX, or HTML) and his notes on using SNePS (Semantic Network Processing System, a knowledge representation and reasoning system). Both can be found on his web page <http://www.cs.buffalo.edu/~goetz/>.

Dancer's (root@brisnet.org.au) paper "'Smart' NPCs in Interactive Fiction" <http://www.brisnet.org.au/~dancer/smartnpc.html> gives theoretical and practical advice on writing believable NPCs. [This link seems to be defunct. dancer.brisnet.org.au seems to exist, but is unreachable.]

(See also: David Graves' "Bringing Character To Life" in [ ...in general?: 5.1] .)

5.3: ...of parsing?

John Holder's "Parser Talk" gives some basics on how a good parser should work. You can get it at <http://members-http-4.rwc1.sfba.home.net/j-holder/intfiction/parser.html>.

(See also: David Graves' "Second Generation Adventure Games" in [ ...in general?: 5.1] .)

5.4: ...of plot/story in interactive fiction?

Paul Munn's senior project paper "The Application of Directed Acyclic Graphs to First Generation Interactive Fiction" (available from the IF-Archive) contains ideas on the use of DAGs in interactive fiction and a TADS implementation of this, as well as information on the evolution of IF, past and future.

"The Stage as a Character: Automatic Creation of Acts of God for Dramatic Effect" <http://rhodes.www.media.mit.edu/people/rhodes/Papers/aaai95.html>), by Bradley Rhodes (rhodes@media.mit.edu) and Pattie Maes (pattie@media.mit.edu), considers plot control in a multiple player environment.

(See also: David Graves' "Plot Automation", and Michael St. Hippolyte's "A Plot Beyond A Line: New Ways to Be Nonlinear" in [ ...in general?: 5.1] .)

5.5: ...of the educational value of interactive fiction?

Brendan Desilets' (bdesilets@mediaone.net) series of articles on interactive fiction as a teaching aid for middle school pupils is available from his Web page, "Teaching and Learning With IF" <http://people.ne.mediaone.net/bdesilets/>.

Part 6: Internet Index

6.1: What is the IF-Archive?

The IF-Archive is the world's largest and most comprehensive repository of interactive fiction-related material, including authoring systems, tools, utilities, papers, references, reprints of magazine articles, and of course games. The Archive can be accessed via webbrowser or using ftp software at the following URLs


Remember this URL well. Every file in the IF-Archive, together with a short description, is listed in the (text) file "Master-Index" or you can search the IF-Archive at Stephen van Egmond's site at <http://bang.dhs.org/if/if-archive-search.html>.

Uploads of new material are encouraged. Please send an e-mail to the maintainers of the archive, David Kinder (davidk@monis.co.uk) and Stephen Granade (sgranade@phy.duke.edu), describing the purpose of your upload and what machines it works on. The ftp address for uploads is <ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/incoming/>.

(Please note the directory is "/incoming/", its not "/if-archive/incoming/".

The IF-Archive (though not the incoming directory) is mirrored at the following sites, which may be closer to you and thus faster and easier to reach:

<http://mirror.ifarchive.org/>, USA

<ftp://wuarchive.wustl.edu/doc/misc/if-archive/>, St Louis, USA

<ftp://ftp.nodomainname.net/pub/mirrors/if-archive/> (ftp may not work from it with web browsers), USA

<ftp://www.plover.net/if-archive/>, USA

<ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/misc/if-archive/>, Helsinki, Finland

<http://www.planetmirror.com/pub/if-archive/>, Sydney, Australia

<ftp://mirror.holmoak.co.uk/if-archive/>, Winchester, UK

If you cannot find a particular file in the location stated in this FAQ or elsewhere, be sure to also look in the incoming directory, as well as /if-archive/unprocessed/ , as it may not yet have reached its permanent home. This is particularly true for recent additions.

The IF Archive maintainers post periodically to several newsgroups, including rec.arts.int-fiction, detailing all recent additions to the IF-Archive. Any files added since the last post are in a file called /if-archive/new-since-last-post .

6.2: What is available via FTP?

Well, as has been mentioned above, the IF-Archive, or one of its mirrors, is the place to go if you want to download interactive fiction software. Really, if you can't find what you want there, you probably won't find it anywhere.

The occasional file, especially games, may turn up at some of the larger platform-specific FTP sites, or on a relevant BBS.

6.3: What is available on the World Wide Web?

There are a large number of Web pages devoted to, or at least relevant to, interactive fiction; too many to all be mentioned here.

The following is a short list of some of the best general interactive fiction Web pages. Most of the pages mentioned will contain links to other associated pages. Pages about specific authoring systems are listed in the section 4.4 "What authoring systems are available."

Brass Lantern
Up-to-date news, user guides, interviews, essays and reviews about text and graphic adventure games. Site is maintained by Stephen Granade (sgranade@brasslantern.org).

An excellent collection of IF website links maintained by Roger Firth.

A searchable collection of IF website links maintained by Ryan Freebern.

GUE Technical Institute
Up-to-date IF news, links and an IF Archive mirror site. Maintained by Brian C. Lane.

Interactive Fiction Scholarship
A collection of academic references related to interactive fiction by Dennis G Jerz.

Dennis G. Jerz Interactive Fiction Page
Introductory IF information and Inform programming resources collection maintained by university lecturer, Dennis G Jerz.

Interactive Fiction (IF) Authorship
Links to various articles on interactive fiction design and the TADS and Inform authoring systems; a number of useful TADS modules. Website by Stephen Grenade.

Twisty Pages/Interactive Fiction Criticism and Authorship
This excellent page, maintained by Stephen van Egmond (svanegmond@home.com), is an attempt to gather together many resources (papers, news articles, reviews, etc.) relevant to interactive fiction authorship and criticism in one place. There are also fully linked HTML versions of every article in the rec.arts.int-fiction archives.

This page is also notable for the excellent browsable index of the IF-Archive which Stephen has created.

Emily Short's Interactive Fiction Page
A collection of thoughtful essays of IF authoring issues and Inform programming.

Doe's Interactive Fiction Page
Homepage of IF'er Doeadeer, includes an IF 'history'; an interesting IF theory essay; Inform and Glulx information.

Oz Project Home Page
Scott Neal Reilly (wsr+@cs.cmu.edu) maintains this page. Details of the Oz Project, including a summary of its aims and links to several Oz papers (gzipped postscript) are here.

The IF Collaborator's List
Authoring interactive fiction requires a certain level of competence in two main disciplines-- namely, computer programming and (prose) writing. If you do not feel happy with your ability in either one of these areas then the IF Collaborator's List, maintained by Jay Goemmer (downbelow@ltlink.com) may be of interest.

The IF Assistance List
Also, Tom Raymond (sarwyse@yahoo.com) is running an IF Assistance List to fulfill the same purpose as the IF Collaborator's List -- bringing together writers, programmers and testers.

The Inform homepage
Maintained by the author of Inform, Graham Nelson (graham@gnelson.demon.co.uk) and others, this page has information on general IF topics as well as Inform-specific resources

6.4: Are there any IF-related chat spaces?

You know, there is! It's called ifMUD. Basically, regulars from the IF newsgroups sit around talking about things ranging from IF writing to hints on games to general computer stuff to music to monkeys, alpacas, and corn. It's fun. A sense of humor is required. You probably shouldn't refer to it as a chat space, though.

You can connect by telnetting to ifmud.port4000.com, port 4000. Since May 1999, ifMUD has been located at (genesis.epicverse.com) and is maintained by Mark Musante. This may or may not change, so the port4000 address is the safest.

Log in as "Guest" with password "guest" and ask a wizard (the list of wizards can be seen by typing '@users wizards') for help with getting a character. If you are totally lost, type '@holler HELP ME!'.

More information on ifMUD is in the ifMUD FAQ at <http://www.ministryofpeace.com/text/ifMUD/FAQ.html>.

The Interactive Fiction Hall of Shame (ifHOS) is a collection of photos of raif and ifMUD regulars. It can be found at <http://www.davidglasser.net/ifhos/>.

ifMUD's website is at <http://ifmud.port4000.com:4001/>; it contains two web-based clients for ifMUD, though neither of them are as good as a decent MUD client. You can also sign up for a character on the website, though there is nearly always a wizard on the MUD to create one for you.

While at port4000.com, check out <http://www.port4000.com/> for Sadie Hawkins, a band formed of IF people. It is the official band of this FAQ, by the way.

6.5: What 'zines exist?

"XYZZYnews", available in Adobe Acrobat format (.PDF) and plain text, appears sporadically and usually contains two or three articles on IF design, as well as sneak previews of upcoming games, spoilers/hints for specific games, and the occasional game review. Each issue is available from the XYZZYnews Home Page: <http://www.xyzzynews.com/>. It is edited by Eileen Mullin.

"SPAG" appears irregularly (approximately bi-monthly). Each issue is chock-full of reviews of interactive fictions, both old and new. See also the "SPAG mailing list" entry in [Are there any interactive fiction-related mailing lists?: 6.6] . SPAG's web page is at <http://www.sparkynet.com/spag/>. It is edited by Paul O'Brian.

A couple of old 'zines can also be found at the IF-Archive, in the /if-archive/magazines/ directory.

6.6: Are there any interactive fiction-related mailing lists?

SPAG mailing list

This list distributes SPAG magazine. The list is intended only for distribution of SPAG and announcements from the editor. Submissions should be sent directly to the editor, Paul O'Brian (obrian@colorado.edu). To subscribe send email to spag-request@df.lth.se with "subscribe <your email address>" (without the quotes) in the *body* of the message.

Z-machine mailing list

Intended for discussion of the Z-machine, an abstract machine designed by Infocom to run their text adventures, topics on this list include details of Z-machine operation, its interpreters (ZIP, Frotz, etc.), and compilers producing Z-machine code (i.e., Inform).

To subscribe send email to majordomo@gmd.de with "subscribe z-machine <your email address>" (without the quotes) in the *body* of the message.

6.7: Where can I find Infocom games?

(This question is more appropriate for rec.games.int-fiction, but is answered for your information here anyway.)

Most of the Infocom games ("The Lurking Horror", "Planetfall", etc.) are *not* legally available on the Internet. They are still under copyright and may be bought in various collections from Activision. "Masterpieces of Infocom" contains all the Infocom games except "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Shogun". There are other out of print collections such as the "Comedy Collection" and the "Sci-Fi Collection". Many Infocom games can be found on auction sites such as <http://www.ebay.com/>.

However, the three "Zork" games are available for free download from the Activision website at <http://www4.activision.com/games/zgi/atrium/gameroom/main2.html>. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is available for free Java-based play at <http://www.douglasadams.com/creations/infocomjava.html> and it is simple for one to find the ZCode file on that site.

6.8: What are those interactive fiction newsgroups again?

There are several newsgroups other than rec.arts.int-fiction which also discuss some aspect of interactive fiction.

The group to which this document applies, rec.arts.int-fiction, is a discussion group for those interested in artistic or technical aspects of interactive fiction, primarily the processes of and problems posed by methods of design and implementation of interactive fiction, including planning, plotting, programming, and writing. For further information see part 2 (Introduction to the Newsgroup).

A second group, rec.games.int-fiction, is primarily for players of extant interactive fiction games. Posters ask for help with or spoilers for particular games, post reviews, and ask for information about games, companies, and people. For further information see the rec.games.int-fiction FAQ (occasionally posted to the newsgroup, otherwise available from the IF-Archive in the directory /if-archive/rec.games.int-fiction/ ).

it.comp.giochi.avventure.testuali, is for discussion of IF in Italian.

alt.games.xtrek discusses both writing and playing "adult interactive fiction" games. "AIF" games generally involve sex or other interaction between characters not generally seen in mainstream IF. The unofficial FAQ for alt.games.xtrek is at the website <www.geocities.com/aetus_kane/faq/>.