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IF News & Dungeon Report

It's been a crazy couple of weeks in IF, and we're expecting several more months of crazy on the horizon.

  • Aaron Reed's book Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 has gone to the printer. You can pre-order it through Amazon. This is an I7 tutorial which concentrates on -- well, as the title says, on creating interactive stories. It's not a programming reference manual, and it assumes no knowledge of programming. I haven't seen this yet but by all reports it is fantastic.

  • Jason Scott's movie GET LAMP has gone to the printer and come back. You can order on the web site. He says that they'll start shipping out next week.

  • The Gameshelf's own Jason McIntosh posted his own IF video... oh, wait. You already saw that.

  • We invited people to get together at MIT and play Zork (the original MIT mainframe version). A whole lot of people did! It was a bunch of fun and we will be continuing the IF-playing series.

  • Some guy named James Mastros implemented GlkNew, a web-based version of my Glk IF-playing interface. I literally had no idea this was going on. This is a play-in-a-web-browser system, but unlike Parchment and Quixe, the game engine runs on a back-end web server. It's a different set of tradeoffs. I haven't played with it much, but I'm happy to see this.

  • IF plans for PAX Prime are coming together. There's one IF panel on the PAX schedule, I believe there will be a GET LAMP reprise, and we'll see the usual list of smaller IF-related events organized by the community. Also as usual, the convention is sold out. If you can't make it, maybe next year in Boston.

IF game release timeline, extracted from IFDB by James Lawton

  • Finally, we have this little graph, courtesy of James Lawton. (Click for full resolution.) James went through all the game data in IFDB, and graphed them by year of release. (All the games that had that information, anyhow -- 3491 of them, as of July 24th.) The circles indicate the number of games released in the IFComp, starting in 1995.

The overall shape is clear; you can see the early years, the mid-80s boom. The tail-off of the commercial companies crosses the rise of the early-90s amateur and shareware community. And then, the modern IF boom of 2000, when the IFComp was really taking off.

You could read the past several years as a discouraging slump. I demur. We discussed this a little on IFMud, and noted some probable causes. Some sources of very small, lightweight IF games -- SpeedIF, ADRIFT mini-games -- have become less popular. More full-length games are appearing. And, we think, IF is spreading into many corners of the online world -- it's no longer concentrated in two newsgroups and an FTP site. So not all new games are appearing on IFDB.

However, these are off-the-cuff guesses. I can't back them up with data. Interested in doing some more IFDB research? Game size, platform, category, new authors vs established names... lots of room for study.

At any rate, 2010 is on track to at least equal 2009. I'm betting it will exceed it once IFComp season hits. Onward.

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A week of games

I had a good game night at the House of Roses last Tuesday. In a game of Carcassonne against very good gamers I played so aggressively that I surprised myself. I ended up winning, mostly on cities, and half of those I shared or swiped outright from others. By the time the game ended I was so far ahead of the pack that the winner of the field war was still a few points behind me. I always like to see a Carc victory on a non-agrarian basis, and should that winner happen to be me, so be it.

Question to the audience: does starting a game of Carc with the river tiles versus the single starter tile increase the likelihood of there being one enormous motherlode of a field by the end? I want to say it is so, but I have no proof.

Then we played Attika, which is new to me. It's pretty neat. I want to play it again. (Didn't win.)

Saturday night was Doug's solstice party. Learned Cash 'n Guns, which has got to be on The Gameshelf sometime, if only because of its main gimmick: each player denotes who they're attacking each round by pointing a life-sized foam pistol at them. (This was the American edition, so the guns were Day-Glo orange instead of black. This didn't make it less fun.) I managed to win, hooray.

Played one session of Figaro, a fast and cute game that would probably go over best with clever little kids. Discovered while playing that it has game design superstar Reiner Knizia's name on the box (and photograph snuck into the card artwork), but in the manual he's only credited for "Game Idea", with two other guys having done the actual development. Sheesh! He's become the Matt Groening of the tabletop game world. (I wanted to be snarkier and say "The Jim Davis of", except that his games are actually good, so.)

Then came my approximately annual game of The Princes of Florence. I appreciate this game but I don't think I really care for it. It's got a feeling of constant forward motion, and of setting and meeting personal short-term goals, which I always like in games. But I have yet to grok the ultimate goal of, getting more points than everyone else, and my sense of accomplishment sours where I think I'm doing really well until the game ends and I'm not just in last place, but a good 15 points behind the pack.

And yet, I want to play it again, because I have an idea of what I did wrong. Grr!

At any rate, after that brain burner I announced that I wished to play Doug's unopened copy of the Dungeons & Dragons board game, a UK-only release from 2002. It's less stupid than I expected. I think I expected a rehash of the old Dungeon game, but instead it's an honest-to-goodness RPG dungeon crawl, using simplified rules streamlined for the simple joy of invading monsters' lairs and bashing them into jelly. We played the intro adventure and smeared six goblins while taking two casualties on our side. Good times.

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