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In which I don't bother to asssign a subtitle.

This April 1 two separate mainstream websites launched a prank that mapped adventure game-type controls to their website. This got me thinking, is it time to revisit how we build and play Interactive Fiction?

It is dark...Both XKCD and Woot applied game elements to their website on Thursday. Woot’s appears to be  static HTML and more ‘choose your own adventure’ than IF. However XKCD’s interface (based off WordPress theme CLI), though limited, was clearly in the spirit of IF. It required text commands, had the standard navigation, included the use of an item, and (of course) involved a grue.

From what I can tell, XKCD’s interface is implemented mostly with jQuery and involves a lot of pre-programing using the standard type of code you’d find in Javascript.

A while ago, I made my own forey into the world of IF, studying a number of games for a class and going so far as to attempt to build my own. I taught myself TADS3 which is, from what I can tell, the easiest IF programming language out there. I used it to build part of a game. The entire time, I was trying to figure out why it was so difficult. It seemed to me that the amount of code that should be required for a working IF story should be minimal. XKCD’s little IF has made me think about it again. How difficult could it be to create IF using standard XML and Javascript, as opposed to some of the more obscure tools out there?

Now, I know that IF is a field that sort of relishes its obscurity, however, I think that a properly put together IF in an interface that didn’t require the installation of strange and unusual programs, might meet with more success and would certainly appeal to a wider audience.

I’m thinking that an entire IF could be laid out within an XML database and standardized Javascript could be used to transform it into a working game. I admit, I’m no expert in either language, but does this seem possible to you?

  1. Stephen Granade on Friday 2, 2010

    I don’t think the IF community as a whole relishes obscurity. In fact, this is interestingly timed, since there were several widely-attended IF panels at PAX East last weekend and a lot of IF outreach at the conference as a whole.

    It’s not the XML approach that you mentioned, but Inform 7 ( is aimed to be easy to write in, and can be played in the browser using Parchment ( Parchment turns games compiled by I7 into Javascript.
    .-= Stephen Granade´s last blog ..Digital: A Love Story =-.

  2. Janus on Friday 2, 2010

    Actually JS/XML interactive fiction has been implemented rather nicely. See

    The game can be played online.

  3. AramZS on Friday 2, 2010

    That is very interesting stuff. Nifty implementation. I wonder if there is potential to further exploit the format of a website for use as a story-exploring tool. The form that website design can offer may have some interesting possibilities to go beyond just basic input and output.