Friday, October 19, 2007

Midterm - Choose Your Own Horrible Demise

Well, fancy that. Here I was thinking the project was due tomorrow night for some reason, and getting ready to go to bed. I guess it's a damn good thing I happened to check the blog prior to sleeping. I'm a little late, but I think I'm just being fashionable. Anyway, apologies for the late post, but here's a little bit about my project.

Zork is a great interface for a game, as I've explained before on this very blog, because I think it really challenges the player, especially we kids these days. To expand: Consider that your Xbox 360 or what have you interprets everything for you. The programmers tell the console "This is a wall texture, it is gray and looks like a rock" and so the 360 shows you a texture that is gray and looks like a rock. There's only one way that the texture can be seen.

Zork, and interactive fiction in general, allow you to interpret things the way you want to interpret them. Instead of everything looking the same to everyone, these games get much more personal and say "Okay, well, the lobby is grand, pillars with golden trim rise to the tall ceiling and a beautiful chandelier hangs above you, sparkling like the night". Your idea of a beautiful chandelier might be hideous to me, but this way we can each create what we want the thing to look like in our head.

I just don't think media these days challenges the user to use their heads enough.

Another thing that's great about interactive fiction is that most of it is surprisingly nonlinear. You don't have to do things in a certain order in Zork, or even in a certain way. You don't have to have the sword to kill the troll, it just makes it a lot easier. Some of the items you might not even use. Yes, there is a finite number of solutions you can come up with for any given problem, but the way you reach the solution you reach is completely up to you.

Most games these days don't even give you a choice. It's just "You will have to have the Bracers of Masculinity +5 to be any good at barbecuing or football". Playing interactive fiction and other non-linear (see my brief mention of Morrowind and Oblivion in another blog entry) games really challenges the user, and I think I'd like to see more of that in moderm gaming.

These games really blend the ideas of narrative and technology, as they allow a 'reader' to experience the narrative in ways they otherwise wouldn't. When you read a novel, things in the novel happen one way -- the way the author wants them to happen. You may disagree with the author and say "hey, you know, things make more sense to me if you do them this way". Well, tough shit, maybe when you write a book things can go the way you want them to. But with interactive fiction, you do have a say! You can do things however you want to do them.

But best of all, all of these, whether they're CYOA or interactive games like Zork, they all make sure you can die in the most overdramatic, unexpected, horrifying ways. I thought that aspect of them was hilarious. Your choice could be between having the veal or having the chicken, but something would find a way to shoot you in the head somewhere in between. I am perpetually making fun of things, so I figured parodying the entire genre would be the best route for me.

So without further ado, here is the download link to the game. It's a little short, I think there are only 13 or 14 rooms. I wasn't sure how long to make it. Zork had 110 rooms, but that seems like a nightmare to me. Plus I figured that the Inform 7 code i wrote came out to over 6 pages in Microsoft Word, which is how long Dr. Johns wanted our essays to be, if we only wrote an essay. I figure I'm golden.


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