My new game, “Second Wind,” is now online as an entrant in the Interactive Fiction Competition 2021 (IFComp2021). With a free account at IFComp.org, you’re invited to judge it and the other contest entrants until November 15.
“Second Wind” is a text adventure game in the parser style, meaning that you interact with environments with commands like
OPEN DOOR and
USE WRENCH. I programmed it in a wonderful game engine called Adventuron. It’s adapted from a short story of the same title, first published by Horror World in 2012 and later collected in Dominoes in Time. Michael Heath Pecorino generously gave me permission to use art from his comic adaptation as the game’s cover art.
Here is its synopsis:
Journey across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to get medical help for your pregnant wife.
You and Lorraine live in Shelter 5. It’s an airtight building in a radioactive desert. It’s airtight to prevent exposure to werespores left over from the war and which would transform you into a mindless proto-human. When Lorraine goes into labor with your child, she needs a C-section, or they will die. The only doctor qualified to help is your ex-wife, Wendy, miles away in Shelter 4 — and Wendy hates your guts.
Getting help before Lorraine dies of exhaustion will require escaping Shelter 5’s confines, a perilous journey across a desert and bombed-out city filled with hostile weremen, and confronting your greatest nemesis: your ex. Your family is worth it, though. So put on your environmental suit and start running.
Content warning: Violence/gore, childbirth trauma, profanity
IFComp is the world’s longest-running competition for text adventure game creators. It’s run by the non-profit Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. For the second year, I am donating to the prize pool the full audiobook production of any contest winner’s short story.
Finally, here are a few screen shots from the gameplay. Enjoy!
Jay Haynes and I are proud to announce you can visit our VR game world, “Chess Parlor,” on Facebook Horizon! Play chess in a mountaintop lodge against other VR users.
The game is still in beta because there are other features we may add.
Let us know if you need a chess opponent!
I’ve spent the last few weeks programming another little free desktop game in jQuery. It’s called Maze Runner.
Navigate through a procedurally generated maze while avoiding non-player characters. The controls are just your four arrow keys.
This has been the year of video game programming. In a few weeks is the deadline for IFComp2021, to which I’m submitting a text-adventure adaptation of the short story “Second Wind.” You’ll have an opportunity to vote on it against all the other competitors.
Below is a screenshot of my current doodle: a random maze generator, through which you have to navigate while avoiding NPCs. My kids and I are still coming up with ways to make it better, but I’ll share it with you soon.
JUHYO is a bridge-style game for 2-4 players where the suits are monsters from all over the world. Click the below picture to play!
I’ve programmed a new online game, the Collaborative Story Generator, that allows you to trade sentences or words with a computer to write a story. The game uses the text generation API at DeepAI, described as follows:
The text generation API is backed by a large-scale unsupervised language model that can generate paragraphs of text. This transformer-based language model, based on the GPT-2 model by OpenAI, intakes a sentence or partial sentence and predicts subsequent text from that input.
DeepAI is a fascinating website normally used by researchers to mine data. It was fun to adapt one of its tools for this.
Here’s the transcript of a recent game I played:
Mode Selected: Trade sentences
You: I just programmed a game in which you can collaborate on a story with an artificial intelligence.
I think that's great in any way.
You: It works by talking to deepai.org.
I don't know if it works by talking to humans, and maybe it shouldn't.
You: Well, at the beginning, humans programmed it, but I’m confident they are not controlling the interactions at this point.
I am just curious if you can convince them that artificial intelligence is a better solution than I believe there should be.
You: Some people are resistant of the idea of it, but maybe games like this will encourage them to think otherwise.
A quick disclaimer here.
You: Computers are not sentient.
But if they are so, they are intelligent.
You: Some people confuse sentience with intelligence, and I think they are two distinct concepts.
A little background information:
You: I like to program things for fun, and that’s why I made this game.
I have found that interacting with computers is interesting and often helpful.
You: When they work well, the results can be spooky.
I don't make any money from people that send me "games.
You: And why should I?
The idea of games with smart algorithms and intelligent gameplay is all too popular with children right now.
It’s taken nearly five months, but I now have a bug-free (I think!), responsively designed game you can play against three computer opponents. They’re very stupid opponents because they randomly make their decisions, but at least they follow the rules. The next programming phase I’m beginning should be the fun one: how to make the computer smarter. This is the part that should scare all sci-fi writers, because obviously I am just one boolean function call away from creating an apocalyptical computer sentience.
No update yet on when Juhyo will be available for the general public. As always, stay tuned!
My first text adventure game, “Tombs & Mummies,” placed 78th out of 103 entries in the Interactive Fiction Competition 2020, sponsored by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. (Full results here.)
This was a fun and well-run competition. In addition to donated cash prizes, there’s a large pool of non-monetary prizes the winners will choose from, including a 30-minute audiobook production from me. At every turn, I was pleasantly surprised at how mutually supportive and positive the I.F. community remained, and that makes me want to program a better game for next year.
I learned many things about programming interactive fiction along the way, mainly from the people who were kind enough to post reviews of my game. For example, I learned there’s a much higher tolerance for difficult puzzles than I expected. The audience for these games doesn’t mind spending hours researching, hunting for clues, unlocking ciphers, and the like. I think they would really get a kick out of Staunton’s Traipse/WQSV 106.3 Treasure Hunt — and in fact, I discovered that one of the Traipse creators is a huge interactive fiction fan and served as an IFComp volunteer judge.
If you’d like to play the free game “Tombs & Mummies,” please click on the picture below. I advise you to create an account at the Text Adventures website, install the Quest 5.8 interpreter locally, and download the game to play it that way. Many of my reviewers were frustrated with the online experience. (I have the same advice about “Omelet Miner,” which really depends on speed. The online experience of that frequently hangs and locks up.)
Just a quick update. I am up to my elbows in the programming of a new online game. This one is an adaptation of the card game Deena and my boys created, Juhyo. The printed card game, which is in very limited circulation right now with a select group of players, is a trick-taking game about snowmen in the guises of various monsters. A website will launch soon with more details.
While you’re waiting, I hope you’ll give “Tombs & Mummies” a spin over at the IFComp2020 archives. If you rate fives games there before November 29, your votes will help determine the contest winners.