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What Is Interactive Fiction?

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Interactive fiction (IF for short), can best be described as your portal to a wonderful,
explorable world, placed somewhere between that book that's a darn good read and a computer
graphic adventure game.
Just as in a graphic adventure game you have a measure of control over your character, and
can experience the pleasure of solving some brain-thwacking puzzles whilst soaking
in delicious looking environments, so can you do likewise in a sprawling text adventure.
"But hang on a minute!" I hear you say.
"How on adventure gaming earth can I expect to be able to soak in DELICIOUS LOOKING environments when I'm only playing a text adventure?"
Aah! That's where the text adventure becomes very much like that "darn good read" I
was telling you about earlier. You know when you're so absorbed by a story that you
can actually picture the perfectly described setting? Well, that's what makes IF so special, and
why many fans of IF actually prefer text adventures over graphic adventures. In text
adventures your stimulated imagination allows you to create your own 'graphics'!
YOU visualize the game environment.

How Does IF Work?

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Most text adventures are purely text-output games. Some, however, have images and
sounds too. But the emphasis is, always, primarily on text.
The way it works is like this ....
The game tells you (the player), where the main character (usually you), is situated in the
game world, and also gives you some idea of how the game character should act, or
even feel. You (that's you, the player), must then figure out how to perform any such action
and, so, progress the story.
By instructing the game using text input you can cause an action to occur or, if your
instruction is incorrect, the game will respond (sometimes in a comical, or even scolding
way), informing you that you've done something wrong.
Just like graphic adventures, most text adventures present the player with puzzles to
solve. Puzzles in text adventures can be straightforward or downright fiendish. But,
frequently, they are quite ingenious. The nature of the puzzle is nearly always a reflection
of how clever (or devious), the game's author has decided to be.
Many text adventures are pure story, with no puzzles at all, and these adventures are no
less enthralling. Provided the story is good enough to keep the player's interest, it
can be just as rewarding an experience as any puzzle-driven game. In some cases, the
story can take divergent paths, and the outcome is then governed by the player's decisions
and actions earlier in the game.
The first category of IF can sometimes be described as Traditional (or puzzle-based), IF,
or simply Text Adventures. The latter form of IF can be described as story-based
(or puzzle-less), IF.
Of course, the very best thing about text adventures of any sort is that many of them are
absolutely FREE to play.

A Little Bit Of History

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Back in 1975, William Crowther, an enthusiastic caver, rock climber, and something
of a computer whizz, struck on the idea of writing a program based on his cave explorations.
He wanted to create something that also encompassed his passion for fantasy roleplaying
games, and decided to put pen to paper or, rather, code to computer so to speak.
Using some of the maps that he had made during his explorations of the Mammoth and
Flint Ridge cave systems in Kentucky - work he had undertaken for the Cave Research
Foundation - he wrote a computer simulation in FORTRAN. Much of the naming he used
for the caves was based on actual features of caves he'd explored.
Crowther had given the game to his family to play and, as it was in the earliest days
of the internet, it ended up being passed from friend to friend across the fledgling network.
Soon after, it can be imagined, office workers everywhere would be installing 'Adventure', and surreptitiously playing it into the small hours.
"Honey! I may be home late tonight. So-oo much work to do here at the office." Hmmm!
In 1976, Don Woods, of Stanford University's Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab
(SAIL for short), discovered a copy of Crowther's program on one of the college's
computers. He was interested enough to try to contact William Crowther and sent
a message to "Crowther@sitename". "Sitename" was, then, every computer on the internet
- just a few sites at that time. Crowther gave Don Woods his blessing to expand the
program and everything progressed from there.
In 1981, an IBM-PC version was marketed by The Software Toolworks (later to be
renamed Mindscape), under the name "The Original Adventure". An added treat for players
that earned all the possible points available, and found all the treasures, was that they'd
unlock a secret code entitling them to receive, from The Software Toolworks, a Certificate of Wizardness, with facsimile signatures of Crowther and Woods,, and an embossed seal.

Several versions of "Adventure" have followed, one of which can be found by following the
link for the game on the following pages.

Certificate of Wizardness

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