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IF Gathering 2013, quick notes

This weekend was awesome and contained practically no disasters at all. At least, none that happened directly to me or anything I was responsible for. I am very happy about that. (Some people did have travel-related disasters, but everyone showed up eventually.)

Friday: Met up with a small crowd of IF folks for dinner. The fish special at Mulan (in Cambridge) is not subtle about its szechuan peppercorns. I bit into a whole one. I have decided that szechuan peppercorn tastes like an ice-cream headache.

Then I went home and packed boxes of stuff for BostonFIG.

Saturday: Woke up way too early (for a works-at-home hacker). Loaded boxes of stuff into car. Drove to MIT. Figured out where the IF table was (ask me about last-minute organizational hassles!) Piled books, iPads, laptops onto table.

FIG was a nearly-solid eight hours of talking about IF in a very loud gymnasium. Some of the people who walked by were all "IF! I used to play that! It was awesome!" Others were all "I have no idea what this is." Several parents dropped their kids into the chair and made them play a few moves, which went over surprisingly well for many of the kids.

Adri and I were the primary table-wranglers. Nick Montfort and Noah Swartz hung around and helped out for some of the day.

The games we had on display were Counterfeit Monkey and The Legend of the Missing Hat. I also kept an iPad on hand and flipped between Meanwhile, Heliopause, Shade, and whatever else was good to demonstrate. As is traditional, one person sat down and played through an entire game. (Hat, not Monkey.)

The shelf of books was mostly decoration, but we waved Creating IF with Inform 7 and the Inform 6 Designer's Manual around when people asked us about tools. Nick also lent us some artifacts -- original editions of early CYOA books, and a couple of Infocom grey-box editions. (Brian Moriarty came by and signed Nick's copy of Wishbringer.)

I passed out a buttload of IF postcards.

Note for next year: displaying IF on a monitor is almost a good idea. It was Counterfeit Monkey on the monitor, but the laptop was facing me, not the crowd. So nobody could actually play the game. I demonstrated "wave X-remover at codex" every time someone looked at the screen, so it wasn't a waste of space, but maybe people would have played some of the game? Or maybe not.

(Clever idea: have a Bluetooth keyboard, so that the crowd and I can both type.)

At 3:00 I ran over to the student center, to introduce the public performance of Lost Pig. I say "performance" because we were graced with the presence of Tom Russell as the voice of Grunk, and Brad Smith as the voice of the Gnome. Julia Tenney volunteered to be the keyboard-wrangler (or, well, I volunteered her and she was okay with it). I passed out even more IF postcards.

The crowd was at least 50 people, most of whom were new to IF -- as far as I know. Everyone seemed to catch on in about thirty seconds, though and the session was blazing along when I headed back to the table. I am told the pig was found and the game won in about 90 minutes.

The expo hall closed at 6:00, which is good, as my throat was about wiped out from shouting over the crowd. We packed out the table. A bunch of folks headed over to see a panel discussion "Boston: The Cradle of Narrative Games", featuring Matthew Weise, Brian Moriarty, Dave Lebling, Terri Brosius, and Austin Grossman (although I'm told he was absent due to illness).

I did not get to the panel; I headed over to the Asgard to make sure it was set up for our IF meetup dinner. Turned out a crowd from NoShowConf was already there, so I needn't have rushed, but hey -- I was hungry. Everyone else showed up after the panel, anyhow. I wound up even hoarser from hanging out in a bar full of interactive-narrative-type people and talking for hours.

Then I went home, and that was Saturday.

On Sunday I slept late (no kidding) and got over to NoShowConf just in time for lunch. I only wound up catching two presentations: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fighting Games (Maddy Myers, Todd Harper) and Chris Klimas's talk about the history of Twine. But there was extra bonus time for sitting around and talking (quietly). So that was fine.

Overall: the weekend was not the enormous IF gathering we had in 2010 (when Get Lamp premiered at PAX East). But it was pretty great. We will do this next year.

Thanks to everybody I mentioned above, helping out. Also to Val Grimm for setting up the Asgard event. And everybody who hung out at the table, and the Lost Pig event, and who showed up for dinner... and, you know, everybody.

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Boston summer IF meetup!

As in years past, the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction is organizing a summer gathering of the IF folks of the world. If you are interested in hanging out and talking about IF, you are invited!

The weekend: September 14-15. The locale: Boston (the MIT area).

Once again, we will be gathering at NoShowConf, a tiny little indie game-dev conference. We will also have a presence at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, which runs the same weekend.

These are both great events, and I'd happily recommend coming into town to visit either one. Both on the same weekend... is logistically complicated, I confess. But it will only make the weekend more awesome!

What's going on?

NoShowConf will run all day Saturday and all day Sunday.

NoShow is at the MS-NERD center, adjacent to MIT.

This will be the primary IF hangout zone. We will not have a separate IF track -- it's a cozy conference, not a cluttered one. However, I will be proposing one IF-related talk and I hope you folks will propose more.

Note that NoShow is considerably cheaper than it was last year. (Thanks to Microsoft for providing event space to the Boston tech community.) If you are on a tight budget, you can grab the Game Jam pass, which is even cheaper and includes all the hanging-out and the free lunch. Last year there were IF folks lounging around talking the entire weekend -- don't feel like the presentations are the only reason to attend.

BostonFIG runs all day Saturday.

This is an open-to-the-public indie game expo. It's running at the MIT student center (a fifteen-minute walk from NoShow). Registration is free; they are currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds.

We are organizing an IF table at BostonFIG! (Thanks Clara.) This is still in flux, but we are aiming for a demo space where we can show off IF to the public, demonstrate IF tools, possibly run a workshop. This is what I expect to be doing all Saturday afternoon. Anyone who wants to help with IF outreach is welcome to come by.

The People's Republic IF Demo, Beerfest, and Chowdown.

On Saturday evening (7 pm), we will meet up to eat, drink, and catch up on IF. (Location is still being planned.) We're going to grab function space in a bar or restaurant, and have a screen and projector available.

The idea is that everybody gathers, orders beer and food, and starts talking raucously about everything that's going on. Then, maybe at 8 pm, I wave a giant wooden spoon in the air, shut everybody up, and point at the projector. This is your cue to jump up, plug in, and tell everybody what you've done in IF in the past 12 (or 24) months. For five minutes! Lightning talk, or just a few screenshots, then next person.

Hopefully that will go for 30-ish minutes. Then we go back to drinking and eating and talking raucously until the bar throws us out.

And then back to NoShow for Sunday.

Perhaps this is a bewildering array of event options. (I like to think of it as "feature-rich", or perhaps "Turing-complete".) The capsule summary is:

  • NoShow: Cozy; conversation with IF folks and indie game devs; presentations for small interested groups.
  • BostonFIG: Big, noisy; present IF to the public (gamers, but not necessarily aware of IF).
  • Dinner: Our annual time to catch up on what's going on in the IF world. Also, beer.

And as I said, wandering back and forth between NoShow and FIG is easy.

What does this mean for you, dear blog-post reader?

  • Consult your calendar. (September 14-15, 2013.)
  • Register for NoShow if you want to take part.
  • Register for FIG if you will be in town at all. (Free, no reason not to.)
  • Donate to FIG's Kickstarter if you want to support that event financially.
  • Submit a NoShow talk proposal if you have an idea for one.
  • Email me if you want to show off anything at the IF dinner. Or at the BostonFIG table.
  • If you're planning to attend any part of this, please comment here, email me, or otherwise let me know. (Planning dinner space means coming up with a head-count, eventually.)

I hope to see lots and lots of you, this summer.

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Apollo 18+20: The IF Tribute Album (now playing)

A very quick note, as Kevin has gone to bed:

The Apollo 18+20 IF album is now live. Most of the games are playable in your web browser; they can all be downloaded and played in your IF interpreter tool of choice.

This after ten minutes of work by me and three months by Kevin. So benificence upon him and all the album contributors. Also thanks to Ryan Veeder for the cover artwork.

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Upcoming Boston IF events

We have two IF events coming up on Saturday, May 7. They overlap, so you've got an opportunity to exercise meaningful player choice...

(Links narfed from the PR-IF meeting notes.)

Story and Play: Interactive Fiction for Children

(2:30pm to 4pm -- Cambridge Public Library, Whale Room)

An IF collaborative play event, for kids, hosted by Brendan Desilets. This is part of the Cambridge Science Festival. We'll be playing Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret, a romp for children of all ages.

Adventuresome Creations: Interactive Fiction Graphical Adventures & Electronic Literature

(3pm -- MIT room 6-120)

A colloquium, hosted by Nick Montfort. This is part of the Purple Blurb lecture series and the Boston Cyberarts Festival. Speaking:

And as long as I've got the microphone, I'll recommend flipping through the Boston Cyberarts Festival event list. All sorts of cool stuff is happening or being demonstrated in the next two weeks.

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[Boston] PR-IF Meetup Tuesday, April 19

The next PR-IF meetup will take place on Tuesday, April 19, starting at 6:30 at the Trope Tank, 14N-233 at MIT. Some potential topics include:

  • Spring Thing entries have been released. We'll probably at least mention this.
  • PAX East postmortem.
  • Cambridge Science Festival.
  • Possible talk/demo of common-sense AI stuff.
Afterwards, usually around 8:00 or so, we'll head over to the Cambridge Brewing Company for food and/or drinks. Newcomers welcome, even if you don't know anything about interactive fiction. We also have a mailing list you can join to hear about events and whatnot.

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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.

Day -1

I spent Wednesday running around collecting the inventory. That includes the projector screen we used (thanks to Rick Kovalcik for letting us borrow it), and also a whole pile of books for the IF Suite. And I'll get that list out of the way right now...

From Nick Montfort's collection:

  • CYOA 1: The Cave of Time, Edward Packard
  • CYOA 12: Inside UFO 54-40, Edward Packard
  • Neither Either Nor Or, Joey Dubuc
  • You Are A Miserable Excuse For A Hero, Bob Powers
  • Eunoia, Christian Bök
  • Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau
  • IF Theory Reader, Kevin Jackson-Mead, Rob Wheeler, ed.
  • Persuasive Games, Ian Bogost
  • Genesis II, Dale Petersen, ed. (contains a rare interview with Will Crowther)
  • Heart Suit, Robert Coover (a story on shufflable cards)
  • Knock Knock, Jason Shiga

From my collection:

  • Creating IF With Inform 7, Aaron Reed
  • The Inform Designer's Manual, Graham Nelson
  • The Knot-Shop Man, David Whiteland
  • Riddle & Bind, Nick Montfort
  • A Telling of the Tales, William J. Brooke
  • Engines of Ingenuity, Kit Williams
  • The Book of the War, Lawrence Miles
  • Meanwhile, Jason Shiga
  • 3-Dimensional Maze Art, Larry Evans
  • The Hole Maze Book, Greg Bright
  • The Book of Signs, Rudolf Koch
  • The Book of Adventure Games 1 and II, Kim Schuette
  • Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal

Last year we brought a lot of narrative-theory and game-studies books. This year I wanted the theme to be "playful books", because, after all, these are things that visitors might read for a bit while relaxing in the Suite. So I brought maze books, fairy tales, and CYOA books and parodies. Some of the fairy tales were about narrative theory and mazes, but that's because such things amuse me.

Day 0

Thursday some of us met up for brunch (the Friendly Toast, your home for ridiculously fancified breakfast food). Then, oh yes, Mike and Jmac and I dragged The Inventory over to the hotel and got the room set up. (We also got screwed at this point on the hotel room rate, but we wouldn't realize this until Monday.)

Dinner was at the Tavern in the Square. (Thanks to Mike for getting us a private room where we could carouse all night. In the matter of geeks getting together. Which is to say, drinking heavily and talking about software.)

Day 1

I scrambled to make flyers announcing the IF Suite, and barely got to the convention center in time for my first panel:

How to fund your game development project with Kickstarter -- Cindy Au, Andrew Plotkin, Joshua Newman, Evan Balster, Max Temkin

This wasn't packed, probably because it was early on Friday. I think about two-thirds of the room was filled. (I'm pretty sure that it was the last event at PAX that didn't completely fill up.)

I've blogged about my Kickstarter success before, so my contribution to this panel will not be news to you. I was joined by the creators of three other projects:

  • Infinite Blank, a multi-player, casual, very lightweight world-making videogame (or toy)
  • Cards Against Humanity, a card game in the style of Apples to Apples for cynical people
  • Human Contact, an RPG patterned after the stories of Iain M. Banks, Vernor Vinge, and Ursula K. Le Guin

Cindy Au is the community-manager person at Kickstarter; she set this up. We all talked about our projects and then answered questions. I completely failed to plug the IF events at PAX.

Interactive Drama: Dialogue as Gameplay -- Jonathon Myers, Daniel Erickson, Jeff Orkin, Aaron Reed, Dan Tanguay, Martin Van Velsen

I didn't make it into this panel; I saw the line and decided I wasn't up for waiting.

This was supposed to be a panel discussion between Jonathon Myers, Stephen Dinehart, Evan Skolnick, Emily Short, and John Gonzalez. As I understand it, four of the five panelists bailed. Emily was at PAX but completely hammered by the cold she brought back from GDC. I don't know the other stories.

However, the panel wound up with a fine list of substitutes. Aaron Reed, the author of Blue Lacuna and Creating IF with Inform 7, represented the text-IF side of the universe. Better yet, he didn't fail to plug the IF Suite, using the flyers that I smuggled into the room.

I ran around the expo floor for a little bit, and then it was time for:

Non-gamers gaming -- Caleb Garner, Tim Crosby, Heather Albano, Sarah Morayati, Andrew Plotkin

This was the first of our IF Suite events, and it was packed as expected. Of course packing the IF Suite is not exactly the same as packing a PAX function room, but we were still pretty pleased.

I'm not going to try to recap the discussion -- we'll post video eventually -- but we got around a variety of angles on the topic. My stumper question, or at least the question that made everybody pause and look thoughtful, was: "Are we talking about writing games for non-gamers, or writing games that teach non-gamers to be gamers?"

I got one of the convention center's patented Extremely Boring Sandwiches for dinner. (They must have been patented. Highly trained food chemists must have worked for years to develop a sandwich that boring. However, it was food.) We then gathered for:

Meet the IF community

...which means, we all hang out in the IF Suite. Just like the rest of the weekend, but we wanted to name a time for newcomers who might be hesitant about it.

And people showed up! It was exciting.

MIT Tunnel Tour

This was an impromptu expedition to visit the MIT steam tunnels (or at least the more interesting MIT basements). I didn't go along with this, because I wanted to stay with the room and continue to greet my loyal fans. Or stay with the room, anyway.

Marius Müller took some video: Video 1, 2, 3, 4 (on Youtube).

Day 2

Saturday was our big day, for circumstantial reasons: Dave Cornelson arranged for us to rent a full-sized hotel function room all day. (That's full-sized for a hotel. Still smaller than the monster PAX event rooms.) So we crammed all the events we thought would draw crowds into Saturday.

Oh, you want photos? Start with Mark Musante's PAX photo collection. Marius Müller and Jesse McGrew also took some, but those are on Facebook, so, you know, wear galoshes.

Our first event...

PAX Speed-IF

The topic list, shouted out from the audience: (And apologies to those of you who tried to shout and got overshouted -- it was disorganized in there.)

  • A character whose name starts with the letter "M"
  • Sending Jim and Kevin on a mission to locate something
  • The Tomb of the Unknown Tool
  • A 100 year old typewriter
  • Pluto
  • Braintree or Alewife
  • One of the titles on Juhana's poster of imaginary IF titles
  • Chicken fingers
  • Explosions
  • Vacuum

We had the traditional (two PAXes in a row is tradition, right?) crowd of people intently hacking away outside the IF room all afternoon. Looks like nine entries were turned in that day; you can download them from the Textfyre SpeedIF page.

Setting as character in narrative games -- Andrew Plotkin, Rob Wheeler, Stephen Granade, Dean Tate

The joke here is that I submitted this as an official PAX event. They didn't take it, because Irrational Games had submitted a panel that was essentially "Setting as character in Bioshock Infinite", and that was deemed to have more appeal to the PAX crowd. Fair enough. So we talked about settings in every game except Bioshock Infinite.

(We cheated a little, because while Dean Tate is with Harmonix Studios, he was with Irrational when Bioshock and Bioshock 2 were being designed. So he had some insights from that story-universe.)

This was fun; we basically gabbed about our favorite game settings for an hour. My panel-ending stumper was "What non-game setting would you love to see in a game?" but this turned out to be the kind of stumper where nobody has a great answer. Oh well.

Everybody Dies

We fired up the projector and played Everybody Dies by Jim Munroe. The run-through took about an hour, and then Jim answered a few questions from the audience.

The transcript will be up soon.

A lightning introduction to Inform 7 -- Jason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin

Unfortunately we didn't get video of this; I was late getting back from dinner and so we didn't get as many laptops set up as we wanted. However, Jason recommends Aaron Reed's I7 screencast; it's the same sort of presentation.

IF Demo Fair

This was the IF event at PAX, and kudos to Emily Short for inventing the idea and making it all happen in just six weeks.

We packed the room with laptops -- and other hardware -- and packed those with sample games. In some cases, with full games. People circulated for two hours, trying everything and discussing it. It was a tremendously exciting place to be. If you found PAX's show floor to be a disappointment, you were missing the ferment of game-design discussion going on next door.

Emily covers a few of the Demo Fair entries on her blog. More detailed discussions will appear in the next issue of SPAG.

The one that I've been thinking about ever since PAX was Juhana Leinonen's Vorple, a Javascript library for animation tricks in an IF interface. This is not as frivolous as you might think. Web-based text can be very polished -- look at the CYOA engine Undum for examples -- and there's no reason IF shouldn't benefit from this.

Vorple showed in-line dynamic images, pop-up help, and smoothly-positioned overlay elements. It's not directly integrated with an IF system yet, but it clearly can be.

My job for the next two weeks is to integrate my old ideas about CSS for Glulx and Vorple's approach to dynamic content, and design a framework that will (a) fit into Quixe, (b) be practical in native (non-Javascript) interpreters, (c) be effective in native interpreters that choose to use HTML display (WebKit or whatever), and (d) be easily usable from Inform 7. Extra fun! But it's the next stage in my VM/API work, and it's time to start it.

Anyhow -- I don't want to make the Demo Fair all about me. There were a pile of other projects and games, including the promised Automatypewriter, so check out Emily's post and future discussion.

Speed-IF wrap-up

Everybody was worn out by the end of the Demo Fair, so we packed up the function room and retired to the IF Suite to look over the absurdly-named creations of the day.

Day 3

Sunday was deliberately light, but we did have time for:

Curveship -- Nick Montfort

Curveship was part of the Demo Fair, but Nick wanted to give a more in-depth presentation for IF cognoscenti. (Sorry about stuffing it into the smaller IF Suite, but it was mildly apropos to see his slides projected onto the unflat surface of an upturned mattress.)

Curveship is an experimental IF system (written in Python) which explores different ways of narrating stories. I keep writing one-line intros in that vein, and it doesn't seem to deconfuse people about what Curveship is. Basically, Curveship has two unusual qualities. First: its world model includes not just facts about the current world state, but a history of past world state, the actions that got from there to here, and (for NPCs) their knowledge of the world -- the subsets of the current and past states that they're actually aware of. Second: its text output system can easily switch point-of-view, tense (past or future), level of detail, and other narrative variables.

The result is not a fully mature IF system. The parser is simplistic, and the generated text is too -- the degree to which you hand-craft the output is somewhat (not completely) at odds with the templating that Curveship uses to vary the text. But the point is to explore these capabilities. Once we know what they're good for, then either Curveship can be improved or the features can be adapted to existing IF systems.

That leaves the question of what the features are good for, and that's an ongoing discussion in the community. I don't have a good handle on an answer. I certainly use point-of-view tricks in crafting IF; I vary descriptions based on the player's knowledge, distance, and state of mind. Do I need these features to be first-level constructs that underlie every object and description? I'm not used to working that way, but maybe if I were I'd be writing different games.

And then we packed up the room and went out to a fancy Mexican place for dinner. Followed by random card games in the hotel lobby until everybody was too tired to think.

Day 4

Brunch at the Friendly Toast again, followed by a quick expedition to the MIT Museum to see Art Ganson's work. Once again, two PAXes makes a tradition.

What have we learned?

We really need a bigger IF Suite next year. Holding a hotel function room for three days straight is certainly a possibility, but we can't serve snacks there, and it's not great for sitting and relaxing. This will be discussed further.

PAX itself was almost completely uninteresting to me this year. I think this is just a phase of the game industry. My first console love is plot-heavy exploration-puzzle-environment games, and they're out of style right now. It's not like I ever went to a PAX and saw lots of big-name games I wanted to buy; it's usually one or two a year. This year it was Child of Eden, I guess. (I'm discounting Portal 2, since there was never a chance I wouldn't buy it.) Smaller games I ogled: Warp, Fez, Blinding Silence.

Not really related to the above, except thematically: I spent the weekend wondering whether PAX was the best place for an annual IF Summit and Hangout. The fact is, we are lost in the crowd; we'll never regain the in-PAX visibility that we had when Get Lamp hit. We've had a solid game-design panel at each of the last three PAXes, and that's good, but it's not necessarily a reason to do all this other stuff at PAX. And indeed, quite a few people in our rooms didn't bother to get PAX badges.

The camelly straw for me was when I went to the PAX info desk and said "Can I put these flyers here?" (For the IF Suite and events.) I did this at PAX East and PAX Prime last year, and they said "Sure." There was a place for independent but related events on the table. This year they said, "Sorry, not permitted." That's for the big sponsors, not for the likes of me.

I feel like I want to be part of a game-design convention, not a game-consumer exposition. Of course I spent last week saying "must attend GDC in 2012", which I will, but that's crazy expensive -- not worthwhile for most IF fans. At the other end of the scale is Boston Gameloop, which I also attend, but which is probably too small to organize around. Where's the full-weekend Boston game-design conference with interesting out-of-town guest speakers and multiple tracks interesting to both indie developers and game studios?

I know, I know, the answer is "run it." Funny story: I went up to a local Boston indie game person -- I won't incriminate by name -- and said "We should run a conference." The individual in question looked at me, nodded wisely, leaned forward, and said "Fuck you."

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A new face for the PR-IF. Comrade.

zarf on a rinform posterThe People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston-based IF collective of which I’m a member, has relaunched its website, thanks to the efforts of fellow members Michael Hilborn and Andrew Plotkin. It’s now a proper blog, with an actual RSS feed you can follow to stay in the know about IF events in the ol’ Bay State.

I checked its own list of recommended games while writing the previous post, and was really struck by the beautiful new design. I especially like the graphical elements referencing Dave Lebling’s The Lurking Horror, a classic title set on (a thinly veiled version of) the very campus our monthly meetings occur in. (And of which we hosted a group playthrough, last Halloween!)

Please note that the group’s moniker is a reference to a local pet name for Cambridge. It has no relationship to our friends in the Russian IF community, though they’re quite welcome to occasionally borrow our members’ likenesses for their own use, as seen in this poster by Anton Zhuchov in support of the Russian Inform project.

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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.


How to fund your game development project with Kickstarter

(Friday, March 11th, 12:30pm-1:30pm, Cat Theatre -- PAX badge required)

Not IF-specific, but includes someone who raised a pile of money for an IF project. (Panel discussion: Cindy Au, Andrew Plotkin, Joshua A. C. Newman, Evan Balster, Max Temkin)

Interactive Drama: Dialogue as Gameplay

(Friday, March 11th, 2:00pm-3:00pm, Cat Theatre -- PAX badge required)

Not IF-specific, but includes Emily Short, whose dialogue-based IF games are widely known. (Panel discussion: Jonathon Myers, Stephen Dinehart, Evan Skolnick, Emily Short, John Gonzalez)

Parsely Games

(Friday, March 11th, 3:30pm-4:30pm, Merman Theatre -- PAX badge required)

Live-action IF-style roleplaying, from the creator of Action Castle! (Hosted by Jared Sorensen)

Non-gamers gaming

(Friday, March 11th, 4:30pm-5:30pm, IF Suite)

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? (Panel discussion: Caleb Garner, Tim Crosby, Heather Albano, Sarah Morayati, Andrew Plotkin)

Meet the IF community!

(Friday, March 11th, 7:30pm-9:00pm, IF Suite)

If you want to drop by and chat with us, but you don't know when to try it, this is when. People will be in and out of the suite all weekend, of course, but this is when we'll all be in.

PAX Speed-IF

(Saturday, March 12th, 1:00pm-1:45pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

Write a short IF game in two hours! Actually, we'll give you until 10:30pm, so you can attend the rest of the convention too. Work alone or in groups. The game theme will be a surprise. (Hosted by David Cornelson.)

Setting as character in narrative games

(Saturday, March 12th, 2:00pm-3:00pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

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? (Panel discussion: Andrew Plotkin, Rob Wheeler, Stephen Granade, Dean Tate)

Collaborative IF: Everybody Dies

(Saturday, March 12th, 4:00pm-6:00pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

(That's the title, not the outcome!) We play Jim Munroe's Everybody Dies as a group. The game will be projected up on the big screen; people take turns reading and typing; anybody can shout command suggestions from the audience.

A lightning introduction to Inform 7

(Saturday, March 12th, 7:00pm-7:45pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

Inform 7 is an unusual IF design language; it doesn't look like any programming language you've used before. We'll give a super-speedy first lesson for IF newcomers (and even for people who have never programmed before). (Jason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin)

IF Demo Fair

(Saturday, March 12th, 8:00pm-10:00pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

A showcase of new and interesting demonstrations in the IF world. (New types of NPC interaction, new user interfaces, and so on.) We'll set up the projects around the room and let viewers explore the exhibits they want to see. (Hosted by Emily Short; see announcement.)

PAX Speed-IF

(Saturday, March 12th, 10:30pm-11:30pm, Alcott room in the Westin)

Show off what you wrote today.

Curveship

(Sunday, March 13th, 1:30pm-2:30pm, IF Suite)

Nick Montfort presents his experimental narration-centric IF development system.

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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?

Two events with IF people are confirmed on the PAX schedule. (These will require PAX badges to attend.) These are not specifically about IF, but we'll certainly talk about IF in some way:

How to fund your game development project with Kickstarter

  • (Friday, March 11th, 12:30pm-1:30pm, Cat Theatre)

Whether you're a seasoned game designer or just starting out in the field, independently producing and publishing a game can be a huge undertaking! More and more, game developers are turning to Kickstarter.com as a place to not only raise funding for their projects, but as a unique way to build fan support and reach out to new communities. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter has grown into the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. (Cindy Au, Andrew Plotkin, Joshua Newman, Evan Balster)

Interactive Drama: Dialogue as Gameplay

  • (I don't have the time yet)

(Jonathon Myers (mod.), Stephen Dinehart, Evan Skolnick, Emily Short, John Gonzalez)

We're still working out the events that we're running, in the two IF rooms. (These will not require a PAX badge.) We will certainly have:

  • A Speed-IF (gamejam-style, write an IF game in one afternoon)

  • Collaborative play of an IF game (yet to be chosen)

Still in planning:

  • "Setting as character in narrative games" (panel discussion)

  • An IF writer's workshop

  • "Reading stories from the crossword" (panel discussion on narrative through puzzle)

  • Superfast introduction to Inform 7?

For more information, check out the IFWiki page which we're using as a planning board. Feel free to suggest panel ideas there. And if you're interested in participating in any of these events, please comment here, or on the wiki, or send me email (erkyrath@eblong.com).

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[Boston] PR-IF Meetup Today

The next PR-IF meetup is today at 6:30 in the Trope Tank, 14N-233 at MIT. IF you’d like more timely notices in the future, you can join our mailing list.

Potential topics include:

  • the new pr-if.org
  • PAX East
  • IF Theory book update
  • Zarfhome Software Consulting, LLC update
  • scheduling the next Grue Street
  • scheduling the next playing group
  • Cambridge Science Festival update
  • a talk about an AI project
Afterwards, some subset usually heads to the CBC for food and/or drinks and further conversation (usually somewhat less IF-related).

New faces always welcome. Hope to see you there!

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[Boston] PR-IF Meetup Today

[Sorry for the short-notice announcement here. If you’d like to keep up with what’s going on with PR-IF in a more timely manner, you can join the mailing list.]

We’re having our monthly meetup today, December 6, at 6:30 at the Trope Tank, 14N-233 at MIT. We’ll chat about various IF-related topics, likely to include at least the following:

  • Zarf’s Kickstarter, which ends today.
  • IF Comp results.
  • The Cambridge Science Festival.
  • A potential revamp of our website.
Afterwards (likely around 8 or 8:30), some subset of us will head to the CBC as usual for food and/or drink. And as always, anyone is welcome, regardless of your experience level with IF.

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[Boston] Experience the Lurking Horror with us

The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction presents a Special Halloween Event: The Lurking Horror

Get ready for Halloween and come to play The Lurking Horror, an interactive fiction piece that brings Lovecraftian horrors to G.U.E. Tech, a fictional version of MIT. Dave Lebling, author of The Lurking Horror and Zork, also an MIT alumn, will join us as we fight the creatures of the Unspeakable. After playing, we will offer a campus tour of the different locations that are (approximately) in the game.

If you have not played interactive fiction (a.k.a. text adventures) before, this is your chance to learn the basics. If you already know how to play, come and experience how fun it is to play interactive fiction with a room full of people. If you've heard the call of Cthulhu, this is the place to be.

The event will also be broadcast online via ustream.


We've got four other IF events coming in the next two weeks. We announced these earlier, but now the times and locations are set:

Collaborative IF Playing Event

  • Thursday, October 21st, 7:30 pm until everyone's done having fun
  • Tufts, Center for Scientific Visualization, Anderson Hall -- the Viswall
  • Flourish Klink and the PR-IF crew will present several IF games to play in groups. The game is up on a projector screen; somebody reads, somebody types, and everybody can shout out suggestions. We've done this a couple of times at MIT, and it's a lot of fun. (List of games to be announced.)

PR-IF Meetup

  • Monday, October 25th, 6:30 until we're hungry
  • MIT 14N-233
  • Our regular monthly meetup. We will look at this year's IFComp entries, watch a surprise video, and discuss whatever else is up in the IF world.

IF Writer's Workshop

  • Wednesday, October 27th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
  • Tufts Mayer Campus Center -- the large conference room
  • I (Andrew Plotkin) and the PR-IF crew will host an IF writer's workshop. Please bring a work in progress! (Any amount of progress, even just an opening room. Any IF platform.) We will try out each work for a few minutes, and then discuss how it plays.

Clara Fernández-Vara on Storytelling in Games

  • Thursday, October 28st, 6:00 - 7:15 pm
  • Tufts Halligan 111A
  • Clara Fernández-Vara (GAMBIT Lab, MIT) gives a guest lecture for Ming Chow's Game Development class. It is open to the public. This is not specifically about IF, but about narrative in game design in general.

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Tufts Interactive Fiction Month

This has been in planning since the summer; the details unfortunately took a while to get solidified. But the web site is up now, or at least the web site is out, so check it out:

Interactive Fiction Month at Tufts University

Tufts (that's in Boston) is doing a whole series of IF-related events, organized by Tufts ACM, with the help of the People's Republic.

Here's the schedule, as it stands right now. (Note: please use the tinyurl version of these links, as the URL may change.)

GET LAMP Screening

  • Wednesday, October 6th, 7:30 - 8:30 pm
  • Tisch AV 304
  • Maybe you've seen it at PAX, but that was months ago! The one-hour convention edition of GET LAMP, followed by discussion by Jason Scott (director), Nick Montfort (MIT), and Andrew Plotkin (me).

Nick Montfort on IF

  • Thursday, October 14th, 2:50 - 4:00 pm
  • Halligan 111A
  • Nick Montfort discusses Curveship, his experimental interactive fiction system which is "designed to allow automatic narrative variation -- that is, computer-controlled, parametric changes in the way the story is told."

Collaborative IF Playing Event

  • Thursday, October 21st, 7:30 pm until everyone's done having fun
  • Center for Scientific Visualization, Anderson Hall -- the Viswall
  • Flourish Klink and the PR-IF crew will present several IF games to play in groups. The game is up on a projector screen; somebody reads, somebody types, and everybody can shout out suggestions. We've done this a couple of times at MIT, and it's a lot of fun. (List of games to be announced.)

IF Writer's Workshop

  • Wednesday, October 27th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
  • Mayer Campus Center -- the large conference room
  • I (Andrew Plotkin) and the PR-IF crew will host an IF writer's workshop. Please bring a work in progress! (Any amount of progress, even just an opening room. Any IF platform.) We will try out each work for a few minutes, and then discuss how it plays.

Clara Fernández-Vara on Storytelling in Games

  • Thursday, October 28st, 6:00 - 7:15 pm
  • Halligan 111A
  • Clara Fernández-Vara (GAMBIT Lab, MIT) gives a guest lecture for Ming Chow's Game Development class. It is open to the public. This is not specifically about IF, but about narrative in game design in general.

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[Boston] People's Republic of IF Meetup, Monday, September 27

Our September meetup will be on Monday, September 27, at the usual time (6:30, with migration to CBC for food/drink around 8 or so) and at the usual place (the Trope Tank, aka 14N-233 on the MIT campus). We don’t have any kind of official agenda as of yet, but here are some things we might discuss:

  • Aaron Reed’s book is out, so we’ll probably discuss it some.
  • The Tufts University IF month is coming up (October), and various of us are helping out in various ways, so we’ll probably discuss that.
  • And, as usual, we’ll likely just yammer on about IF in particular and games in general.
Everyone is welcome, no matter your experience level with IF. If you have something particular you’d like to discuss or share with the group, feel free to do so. Note that we also have a mailing list, which is linked from our website.

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[Boston] Help us find a lost pig

The last PR-IF playing event was very successful, so we’re trying it again, this time with a more modern piece of interactive fiction: Lost Pig. Come join us this Sunday, September 12, from 2-5 pm at MIT in Building 1, Room 135. For more information, including live stream information, check out the PR-IF website.

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[Boston] People's Republic of IF Meetup, Monday, August 30

Our August meetup will be on Monday, August 30, at 6:30 in 14N-233 at the MIT campus. See our website for more details about the group. This month’s agenda:

  • We’ll be the first to check out a new adventure game from GAMBIT.
  • We may check out a few bits of GET LAMP.
  • If it’s out in time, we’ll likely flip through some of the new book on writing IF, Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7.
  • We’ll play the IntroComp 2010 games that we didn’t get to last month, and we’ll discuss the results of the competition (which came out this past weekend).
  • If our Tufts contingent is represented, we’ll talk about how planning for IF month at Tufts (October) is coming along.
As usual, around 8 or 8:30, we’ll head over to the CBC to continue the discussion over food and/or drinks.

All are welcome, and please feel free to come with your own suggestions for things to do/discuss.

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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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[Boston] Come play Zork with us in a new room

For the Zork-playing event I mentioned earlier, there has been a slight change. It turns out that the room we were going to use didn’t have a projector, so we’ve acquired a new, better, easier-to-find room. It’s still at MIT, but it’s in Building 1 Room 135. Hope to see you there.

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[Boston] Come play Zork with us

Sorry for the short-ish notice. This is our second attempt at an IF playing group to complement our IF writing group.

The People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction Presents: ZORK

July 25th, 2 - 5 pm
MIT Campus: Bulding 1 Room 135. NEW ROOM!

Come and play Zork where it all started. We will be venturing together into the dungeons of the Great Underground Empire.

Inspired by Adventure / Colossal Cave, Zork was one of the first text adventure games, developed by a team of students at MIT back in 1977 on a PDP-10. If you’ve never played a text adventure game, this is your chance to experience the joys of playing through the command prompt by joining others in the adventure. If you’re an old Zork hand, help us track down in-jokes and historic references.

Also, we’ll be trying to broadcast the session on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/people-s-republic-of-interactive-fiction-zork.

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People's Republic of IF Meetup, Monday, July 26

It’s that time again. We’ll be having our monthly meetup at 6:30 on Monday, July 26, at the MIT campus in 14N-233. See our website for more details about the group. On the agenda so far we have:

  • Talk about how Zarf’s Readercon talk went and what we might want to do regarding other local conventions.
  • Take a look at some of the IntroComp games.
  • Talk about what we might want to do for PAX East 2011 (it’s been confirmed for Boston for the next 3 years).
  • Watch the latest Gameshelf episode! We’ll be watching the YouTube-sized Gameshelf #8: Modern Interactive Fiction.
As usual, we’ll head to Cambridge Brewing Company afterwards (usually around 8:00 or 8:30) for food and/or drink and more informal discussion.

And as always, everyone is welcome, even if you don’t know anything about interactive fiction and just want to sit and observe.

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