Results tagged “pax”

No Show Conf and IF stuff (with bonus movie)

Ns logo smallThe very first No Show Conference is happening this coming weekend on the MIT campus. Organzied by local videogame producer Courtney Stanton, it’s angled at game-making professionals working in any medium. As I write this, there’s only a couple of dozen tickets left, so if you’ve access to Boston and this is your sort of thing, you may wish to get on that.

While it’s not on its official schedule, No Show shall play host to this year’s Interactive Fiction Summit, late of PAX East. The People’s Republic decided to give PAX a pass this year, in favor of a smaller and more developer-focused conference, and lo, one has appeared. As suggested by the fact that I write this post just a few days before the event, the Summit doesn’t quite have the definition it enjoyed during the PAX years; really, it’s just a call for IF authors and fans to come on by and find one another.

That said, No Show does itself take a IF-philic stance — the structure of the conference’s demo hall is inspired by the IF Demo Fair that Emily Short organized during last year’s PAX East. Furthermore, No Show speakers include IF authors Clara Fernández-Vara, Dierdra Kiai, and Jim Munroe, presenting on a variety of topics around games and culture. (I suspect that Dierdra’s alt-universe satirical examination of “Men in Games” will end up an especially popular talk.)

As a special treat, Jim Munroe will screen his new film Ghosts with Shit Jobs on Saturday evening, bracketing it with a panel discussion featuring our own Andrew Plotkin and local webcomic superstar Randal Munroe. That screening is part of MIT’s summer film series, not No Show, so it’s free and open to the public.

So, yes, that’s where I’ll be all weekend.

Jmac will be at Origins 2011

Let this serve as my public announcement that I plan to attend the 2011 Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio from June 22nd through the 26th. I’ll be acting a little bit as a blogger, a little as an indie game producer, and a little as a courier (helping to lug a publisher friend’s sellable goods cross-country). But mostly I plan to arrive as player and lover of games. This will be my fourth Origins, but the first where that’s my primary role.

Nick Montfort on Curveship (PAX East 2011)

Nick Montfort presents Curveship, the experimental narration-centric IF development system that he released last month. (Yes, he’s using an upturned hotel bed as a projection screen. I mentioned that the IF suite was crowded, right?)

Unfortunately, it seems I spoke too soon about no cut-short PAX videos this year; I was surprised to discover that this one ends abruptly after around 22 minutes. However, this accidentally abridged talk still summarizes Curveship’s purpose, form and strengths quite well. If it whets your appetite to learn more, visit Curveship’s website.

Click here to watch this on Vimeo.

Setting as Character in Narrative Games (PAX East 2011)

Part of Saturday’s proceedings at the 2011 IF Summit that conveniently adjoined this year’s PAX East.

In adventures and other explorational games, the setting is often the most eloquent and memorable character: an island, a castle, a starship. How do these locales tell stories, and how does the player character fit into those stories?

This panel discussion features independent IF creators Andrew Plotkin, Stephen Granade, and Rob Wheeler, and Dean Tate of Harmonix (formerly of Irrational Games).

Click here to watch this on Vimeo.

Non-Gamers Gaming (PAX East 2011)

Here’s the first of three 2011 IF Summit event videos that The Gameshelf shot at PAX East. Unlike last year’s videos, I actually prepared a little for these, so there’s no sudden cut-offs due to battery death. I’ll also try to improve these videos’ visibility over last year’s by putting each into a separate blog post.

This one is the Non-gamers Gaming panel, featuring Heather Albano (Choice Of Games), Tim Crosby (Disruptor Beam), Caleb Garner (Part 12 Studios), Sarah Morayati (independent creator), and Andrew Plotkin (Zarf). Rob Wheeler manned the camera.

How do you design challenges for gamers who haven’t played the last thirty famous entries in the genre? What about readers and writers who do not identify as gamers?

Click here to watch this on Vimeo.

I must still apologize for the murky video quality, but it’s the best we could squeeze from my little Flip Video in the cramped and crowded hotel room that Friday’s IF events took place in. (Saturday found us instead enjoying a large and well-lit conference room, and the next video will reflect that.)

PAX East 2011: Zarf's anecdotes

I wrote a whole lot about last year's PAX IF events, because that was my first PAX and everything was exciting and new. Now it's my third (two in Boston, one in Seattle) and... everything is ho-hum and tired? No. It was an exciting weekend. But I may gush less about it this year.

Thumbdrive Riddler is never gonna give you up

RiddlerLast year at PAX East, an anonymous riddler dropped a stack of mysterious USB thumbdrives in the People’s Republic’s hospitality suite. The Wingding characters emblazoned upon them, it turned out, were the first key to cracking the code-based puzzles found in the drives’ data. The rewards were a series of playable Infocom spoofs, starting with a mutation of Zork where the thief appears to have been replaced with Rick Astley. (He sings exactly what you’d expect.)

At PAX east 2011, they struck again, silently insinuating one more thumbdrive into the suite’s washroom. I discovered it while helping to lock the place up on Sunday, pocketed it… and immediately forgot about it. But then, just last night, a twitter account connected with last year’s riddles cleared its throat at us, and I remembered again! Much frenzied solving on IFMud followed.

Solvers were curious at the payload’s size, which at more than 60 MB is far larger than any of last year’s puzzle-packets. “It might be just a giant rickroll,” I suggested, and… well, you can read the results yourself.

As I write this, the solvers on the Mud are still scratching their heads over what appears to be an audio-steganography puzzle. If you’d like to lend a hand, you can grab your own copy of the thumbdrive’s contents and then join us on IFMud, where we’re using the chat-channel #PAX-USB-drive.

Update: Wow, looks like the team on the Mud cracked it literally within minutes of my posting this. Nice job! (The transcript linked above now reflects this.)

I’d like to offer my appreciation to the merry pranksters who are keeping this little game going. We’re all having fun with it, and even if it sometimes takes us adventure-game fanatics a little while to figure out where the puzzles are, at least we’re in-character enough to pick up and carry around everything that looks remotely interesting.

Image credit: Photograph by David Marriott Jr. (CC BY-NC-ND)

A little Saturday-night Inform thunderstorm

Zarf’s already posted the schedule of IF-related events at PAX East 2011 (this coming weekend!), but as an egomaniac I just wanted to highlight the one event I’m directly involved with: Zarf and I are going to reprise the lightning-talk introduction to Inform that we first presented at GameLoop last summer. We’re going to build a very small game that shows off some of Inform’s major features, especially its natural-language syntax.

I love presenting Inform like this, because the language essentially sells itself. To my knowledge there is simply no other practical-use programming language on the planet, in any domain, whose source code reads like Inform’s. If you’ve never seen the language before, I could stand up there and implement the phone book at you, and it’d knock your socks off. So banging out a whole game in 45 minutes, with NPCs and puzzles and all that good stuff, should really bowl you over…

The talk will happen at 7 PM on Saturday, March 12, in the Alcott room in the Westin Waterfront hotel. Like the rest of the events happening there and in the suite, the talk is free and open to the public — you don’t need a PAX badge to come join us. Hope to see you there!

Zarf appearances this spring

I am not at GDC right now (although Emily Short is, and many other game designers I know or know of). Drat.

But if you're the sort of person who wants to meet me in person, you can visit the IF events at PAX East, March 11-13. I've already posted about that, so there you go.

Moving on beyond PAX (hard as it is for me to think about that): I am speaking at Swarthmore College on Saturday, March 26th. (In the afternoon sometime -- not yet determined.) I will be talking about IF for writers, and also doing a very fast introduction to Inform 7. Then in the evening we'll have a group IF play event. Thanks to Swarthmore Psi Phi for inviting me.

And finally -- well, finally for this update -- I will be attending Balticon, May 27-30. I haven't seen the final schedule, but I believe I'm doing the IF-for-writers talk again, moderating an IF panel, and hosting a group play of Heliopause.

IF at PAX East 2011 -- compleat schedule

Everything IF-related going on at PAX East 2011!

Some of these are official PAX events, on the PAX schedule. Some will be hosted in our capacious Interactive Fiction Event Room, which will be the Alcott room in the Westin Waterfront hotel. (Right next to the PAX convention center.) And yet more will be in the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction Hospitality Suite (the Westin, upstairs, room number 846).

The IF Event Room and the IF Hospitality Suite are open to the public; you will not need a PAX badge to attend our events. So if you're in Boston at all, feel free to drop by.

  • The Hospitality Suite will be open noon-midnight Friday, noon-midnight Saturday, and noon-3pm Sunday. We'll have books, conversation, IF to play, and snacks to snack through the whole PAX weekend.

  • The IF Event Room (Alcott room in the Westin) will be open noon-midnight Saturday only. We'll be running IF events all day; see the "Saturday" events listed below. You'll also be able to marvel at the Automatypewriter.

PAX East 2011!

Last March, we at the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction busted our brogmoids to run a series of IF events at PAX East. We ran an IF Hospitality Suite throughout the weekend; it turned into a sort of IF mini-convention within PAX. (See this post from last year.)

Following that success (and a similar event at PAX Prime in September), we are once again making plans for PAX East 2011.

We're still setting things up. But it looks like we're going to have two rooms this year, in the Westin Waterfront hotel. (That's adjacent to PAX's new convention center.) We'll have the now-standard IF Hospitality Suite, open noon-midnight Friday, noon-midnight Saturday, and noon-3pm Sunday.

We'll also have a function room in the Westin -- not as large as the PAX function rooms, but big enough for a decent crowd. (Thanks to Dave Cornelson for arranging this.)

So what's planned?

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.

For IF, the PAX East aftershocks continue

Screen shot 2010-07-02 at 12.54.32 PM.pngAs we enter midsummer, the interactive fiction landscape continues its long thaw out of a decades-long winter of deep obscurity. This is an exciting time to be a fan of the medium one could call indie games’ indie games, and I feel privileged to live in one of its geographic activity centers.

To my eye, much of this motion comes from the continuing fallout from PAX East and the unexpectedly potent meeting of the minds that happened that weekend — not just among established IF authors and critics, but with lots of interested newcomers as well, many of whom help sustain the medium-transforming conversations begun in March.

The last few weeks alone have seen a rich mix of IF-related activity and discussion, which I shall now attempt to summarize:

The most recent SPAG leads with Harry Kaplan’s “How Suite it Was”, a lengthy retrospective of the goings-down at PAX East’s IF Hospitality Suite last March. Beyond Harry’s reporting, the piece collects and recounts various attendees’ memories of the event, and the impressions it left upon them.

The story also served to remind me of my own excitement about the possibilities of writing and publishing serialized interactive fiction, an idea I floated during the IF Outreach panel’s lengthy digression into the thorny topic of the medium’s commercial potential. Just a spitballed notion at the time, the idea grew on me quickly, and I filled several notebook pages with thrilled scribbles on the topic before PAX ended and therefore wiped the whole thing from my brain-cache. Rediscovering it months later, I find it just as thrilling of an unexplored area. Look for a column-length bloviation on the subject later.

Emily Short and Nick Montfort led an interesting exchange about IF interfaces on their respective blogs last month. Emily — one of the lead developers of Inform 7, which I will risk calling modern IF’s most popular language — wondered out loud if the bare-naked command-line prompt, while iconic to IF’s form, might have outlived its usefulness. Working from her notion of the command prompt as false promise (one of my own favorite takeaway notions from PAX), she explores many experimental player-input routes that other text-based games have investigated over the years, and proposes some new directions to try.

On his own blog, Nick — a champion of interactive text by profession — provides some pushback, defending pure-text input as being a natural pairing for pure-text output, and offering skepticism that any other system would ultimately prove easier for a new player to learn. The discussion bled out onto various other blogs and fora from there, and remains ongoing — see, for example, Horace Torys’ alternate interface mockups, and Sarah Morayati’s critique of IF’s library responses, the (in)famous I don’t see that here-type messages that are also, unfortunately, iconic to IF.

Interactive Fiction Bits

Two recent bits:

  • Following the success of the IF summit at PAX East, the Seattle IF group is organizing some IF content at PAX Prime in Seattle this September.
  • IF newcomer Neophyte has teamed up with IF veteran Juhana to build a game that will act as an IF trainer, teaching people what they need to know to play other IF games. They're collaborating on a wiki for everyone to see. Right now they have some of the initial concept done, and they're hoping to have the game done by September 1 (just in time for PAX Prime, although I think their timing has more to do with the annual comp than PAX).

What I bought at PAX East 2010, Part 2

9780810984233.jpgThis week I complete my writeup of the stuff I hoovered off the merch tables outside the very first PAX East expo hall last month. As I mentioned last time, almost everything I bought at this game expo was some kind of printed matter.

Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga

I don't understand how I haven't run into Jason Shiga's work before last month[1], where two of his self-published books lay among the Printed Works of Interest on display at the PAX IF Suite. One of them, a black-and-white, intriguingly dogeared comic book called Meanwhile, caught my attention immediately, and I was delighted to discover that a brand-new full-color hardcover edition had not only just been printed but was for sale at the expo. For my money, it is a best-case scenario of print-based interactive fiction.

PAX East 2010: The IF videos (mostly)

Here is the video my Flip camcorder shot of three of the IF-related PAX East-ish events. I apologize for the wobbly quality; I didn't arrive at PAX with plans to record anything, but found myself deputized into a videographer role after I was noticed fooling around with my brand-new camera-toy. As such, I (and other individuals I roped in to help me) struggled to figure out how to best use the device even while shooting these videos.

Two of these videos cut out prematurely, because it turns out that the Flip doesn't offer much in the way of a battery-life indicator. On the plus side, the audio is as good as you can hope to get from a little box located yards away from the subject. So: not very good at all, actually, but at least it's audible. Next time I do something like this, I'll plan ahead and bring both a real camera and mic setup, and more of a clue as to their use. (Taking, perhaps, a page from Ben Collins-Sussman, who took some great photos of PAX's IF activity.)

Nonetheless, these videos are filled with smart people saying interesting things about interactive text games, so please do enjoy them! If you're well-behaved I'll end this post with related videos shot on better equipment by someone more skilled.

Dispelling the Invisibility: IF Outreach

IF Outreach panel - PAX East 2010 from Jason McIntosh on Vimeo.

This took place in the IF Hospitality Suite (a.k.a. Zarf's room in the Hilton) on Saturday evening.

Panelists, from left to right, include Andrew Plotkin (author), Chris Dahlen (journalist), John Bardinelli (critic), and Jason McIntosh (me). The moderator, seated in the middle, is Harry Kaplan. Fellow PR-IF member Jake Eakle operated the camera. The video ends abruptly when the camcorder runs out of storage (it's a long discussion), but the panel wound down soon after.

What I bought at PAX East 2010, Part 1

30887208_16f5396a71.jpgHere is one of my two funny PAX East 2010 stories: Near the start of the Friday-afternoon festivities, around the time that Zarf took the pensive-looking photo of me seen in his own PAX post, I bumped into Darius Kazemi, celebrated one-man social nexus of the Boston game-making community. We caught each other up on our respective projects, and after hearing about how I've been experimenting with writing longer, more-or-less regularly paced columns for The Gameshelf, he gave me a quest. I was to seek out a brand-new and ambitious print magazine called Kill Screen, the editors of which I could find in attendance that weekend.

The rest of Friday was then completely consumed by IF events, as others have already ably recorded. (Again, see Zarf's post for links aplenty.) When Saturday came, and after I'd succeeded in meeting my visiting Xbox Live pals for lunch, I pulled out my phone for some google-sleuthing, hoping to find where within the overcrowded PAX these magazine folks hid. A search for "kill screen" "pax east" brought me easily to this blog post by the magazine's managing editor, Chris Dahlen, where he noted that he'd be speaking on a panel in the IF hospitality suite at 7 PM. As it happened, I would be speaking on the same panel. Quest complete.

I am in possession of both video and commentary regarding that panel, but alas, my poor, broken, coffee-stained MacBook lacks the wherewithal to make the video postworthy. I expect FedEx to deliver its shiny white replacement presently, at which point I'll attempt to push my own thoughts on that panel and the whole "IF Outreach" topic into presentable shape.

Until then, allow me to review my PAX East 2010 Haul. With one exception[1], everything I purchased took the form of printed matter, and all of it came from either the Attract Mode folks or Jason Scott, both of whom had set up tables in "Band Land" amid all the musicians' merch. I took delighted surprise in finding myself coming home from a video game expo with only an armload of books and magazines, and hope you'll enjoy hearing about it.

PAX East 2010: Zarf's story

This is the story of a five-day weekend, a parhelion, two mazes, mortal terror, a cheese sandwich, magnets, and joy.

Not in that order, though.

Three upcoming documentaries on games

We seem to be entering a nexus of documentaries about games. Far be it from me to do anything but encourage further flowering in this field! Witness:

Lorien Green has released a clip of Gone Cardboard, a film about board games -- particularly Eurogames, by the looks of it -- and the people who play them. She expects to release the final cut in early 2011. (Link via Kevin Jackson-Mead.)

The enigmatically named Spinach hopes to produce a doc about people who create digital games, called You Meet the Nicest People Making Videogames. That link leads to the project's Kickstarter fundraising page, which includes a teaser he filmed at GDC. Mr. Spinach approaches this endeavor from scratch, and needs help covering both equipment and travel costs, a position I can certainly appreciate. He's a quarter of the way to his goal, so far... (Link via Anna Anthropy.)

And of course, just 49 hours and 15 minutes after I type these words, I plan on attending the world premiere of Jason Scott's Get Lamp at PAX East. It is part of the interactive fiction track which is of course the real reason to attend the show, ho ho. Jason's been working on this film for years, and I was privileged to see a clip a few months ago at a Boston IF meetup. It's gonna be a goodie.

Everything IF-related going on at PAX!

Some of these are official PAX events, on the PAX schedule. The rest will be in the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction Hospitality Suite, open noon-midnight in the Back Bay Hilton. (Across the street from the Sheraton.) Come by any time and say hi to IF people!

Storytelling in the world of interactive fiction

(Friday, March 26th, 5:30pm-6:30pm, Wyvern Theatre (312))

Text adventures have been quietly experimenting with narrative gaming for thirty years. Five authors from the amateur interactive fiction community discuss the design ideas in their games -- reordered storylines, unreliable narrators, deeply responsive NPCs -- and how they apply to other kinds of games. (Rob Wheeler (mod.), Robb Sherwin, Aaron Reed, Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin)

GET LAMP Panel/Screening

(Friday, March 26th, 9:30pm, Naga Theatre (210))

The premiere of Jason Scott's documentary on IF history and culture. Approximately 90 minutes of film, followed by a panel discussion. (Jason Scott (mod.), Steve Meretzky, Dave Lebling, Brian Moriarty, Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Don Woods)

PAX Speed-IF

(Saturday, March 27th, 1:30pm-2:30 pm, IF Suite)

Write a short IF game in two hours! Actually, we'll give you until 10pm, so you can attend the rest of the convention too. Work alone or in groups. The game theme will be a surprise; I7 and TADS 3 templates will be provided. (Hosted by David Cornelson)

Dispelling the Invisibility -- IF Outreach

(Saturday, March 27th, 7:00pm-8:00pm, IF Suite)

What's working? What's not working? Why? What hasn't been tried? (Harry Kaplan (mod.), Andrew Plotkin, Jason McIntosh, Chris Dahlen, John Bardinelli)

PAX Speed-IF wrap-up

(Saturday, March 27th, 10:00pm-11:00 pm, IF Suite)

Everybody shows off the games they wrote.

Action Castle!

(Sunday, March 28th, 10:30am-11:30am, Wyvern Theatre (312))

"Action Castle" is a goofy role-playing game where the GM pretends to be an IF parser, and the players must speak in IF-ese.

No Hints Please -- Adaptive Difficulty Strategies

(Sunday, March 28th, 1:30pm-2:30pm, IF Suite)

Jim Munroe, Aaron Reed, Dave Gilbert.

Purple Blurb

(Monday, March 29th, 5:30pm-7:00pm, MIT 14E-310)

This is not a PAX event, but it's happening in town the day after PAX. Emily Short and Jeremy Freese speak at MIT on the subject of interactive fiction and electronic literature. Hosted by Nick Montfort for his Purple Blurb lecture series.



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