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Retro Gaming Hacks by Chris Kohler

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Write Text Adventures with INFORM

Create your own journey through a land of words.

Text adventures (also known as interactive fiction) have been around for decades. While these are broad terms, they usually conjure thoughts of a large array of sectioned-off areas, each with its own unique description, items, and traversable paths. Without a vivid imagination and a keen eye for detail, forays into text-based worlds are brief, painful experiences.

Although it’s certainly possible to build a text adventure from scratch, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you’re looking to make a traditional “go north, look, get key"-style game. If that sounds good, then you have your pick of several tools. One of the best is INFORM, a powerful and highly customizable design system that consists of code libraries with prewritten commands and a game-writing language. To write games with INFORM, you’ll need to download the libraries and a compiler, available for all platforms at the INFORM homepage: http://www.inform-fiction.org/. You should also download the manual, since it will come in handy when you want to move beyond basic rooms and items.

To actually play your creations, you’ll need to download the INFORM interpreter [Hack #64] .

Remember the Rules

Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran author with dozens of games under your belt, it’s good to keep a few basic rules of text-adventure writing in mind when you start a new project.

Be detailed, not wordy. Short, custom descriptions for items ...

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