Interactive fiction is a very interesting medium for games and for literary
works. Indeed it is especially good for blurring the boundaries between
the two. Unfortunately, it is less accessible than other media such as
film, books or graphical games. When you first start a work of interactive
fiction, you are presented with a brief introduction and then a description
of a location. You play a character in the unfolding story and this location
is where you begin the action. You will thus probably want to work out
what direction the story will take and to play a rewarding part in it.
You do this by typing in commands. These commands are typically much more
open ended than in other interactive media such as graphical games, but
they do have their limits.
The most important commands in interactive fiction involve moving around
and acquainting yourself with your environment. To move in a direction,
you type something like climb the oak tree
or up or enter cathedral
or go northwest. To find out about your environment,
use commands such as look or look
at the phoenix or examine coin.
You will also want to manipulate things in the world which can be done
by issuing rather simple commands such as take the
coin or open door. To find out what
you are currently carrying, type inventory.
To ease the burden of typing, there are common abbreviations such as n
for north, x
for examine and i
One of the joys of interactive fiction involves performing quite complex
actions that are beyond the scope of many graphical games, such as hang
upside down from the window, but whereas the previous actions are
possible in all interactive fiction, something as unusual as this will
only work if the author has especially catered for the possibility that
someone might try it. Thus it is generally best to start with simple specific
actions to accomplish some task rather than risk disappointment with the
game's blank incomprehension when you try to skewer
the guard upon excalibur or prise the chest
open with the screwdriver.
The first experience can be frustrating, so it is best to find out what
type of commands are likely to be accepted and become somewhat familiar
with things before you have a serious attempt. Once you are familiar,
you will hopefully see some of the things that IF can do well, which are
handled very poorly by other types of game or fiction.
To learn a bit more you may wish to visit a nice site called brass
lantern which has an in depth introduction. There is also a lovely
on the Inform website that involves playing with kittens, so you might
want to look at that too.