Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (MIT Press)

Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (MIT Press)

Nick Montfort

Language: English

Pages: 302

ISBN: 0262633183

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Interactive fiction -- the best-known form of which is the text game or text adventure -- has not received as much critical attention as have such other forms of electronic literature as hypertext fiction and the conversational programs known as chatterbots. Twisty Little Passages (the title refers to a maze in Adventure, the first interactive fiction) is the first book-length consideration of this form, examining it from gaming and literary perspectives. Nick Montfort, an interactive fiction author himself, offers both aficionados and first-time users a way to approach interactive fiction that will lead to a more pleasurable and meaningful experience of it.

Twisty Little Passages looks at interactive fiction beginning with its most important literary ancestor, the riddle. Montfort then discusses Adventure and its precursors (including the I Ching and Dungeons and Dragons), and follows this with an examination of mainframe text games developed in response, focusing on the most influential work of that era, Zork. He then considers the introduction of commercial interactive fiction for home computers, particularly that produced by Infocom. Commercial works inspired an independent reaction, and Montfort describes the emergence of independent creators and the development of an online interactive fiction community in the 1990s. Finally, he considers the influence of interactive fiction on other literary and gaming forms. With Twisty Little Passages, Nick Montfort places interactive fiction in its computational and literary contexts, opening up this still-developing form to new consideration.












accepts natural language input from the interactor and analyzes it. ("Parser" is used as a term for all components of the program that handle natural language input, including some components that are distinguished from parsers in natural language processing.) In the case of Adventure's "two-word" parser, which only accepts input of the form "verb" or "verb noun," determining the grammatical structure of the input is trivial. More complex sentences are accepted by other interactive fiction works.

fact left to the reader of Composition no. I to assemble the pages into a particular telling, and to realize a narrative from the deck of texts provided; although the ordering of events may never be certain, this hardly prevents the reader from associating meaning with and investing emotion in the events that did take place and the characters who took part in them. Certain literary machines were implemented on computers in the United States before Adventure. Dale Peterson (1983) writes that

been revised to replace mention of Dungeons and Dragons with "the long tradition of fantasy and science fiction adventure." This revision came after Zork was briefly renamed Dungeon, drawing the attention of certain lawyers to the Implementors and MIT (Anderson 1985b, 4). Both the original and revised statements have truth to them, of course. Zork's Implementors had played Adventure earnestly, and they created Zork mainly in response to their enjoyment of that interactive fiction work and the

were in color, and noticeably less primitive. The non-player characters could be commanded to do things, and in fact such commands had to be issued to successfully traverse The Hobbit. The parser, a system called Inglish, was purportedly sophisticated in that, as one reviewer noted, "the analyzer ... takes the input through several checks that ensure that the words are in the program's vocabulary, that the syntax makes sense in the game's context and that they make sense in the context of the

projects. One thread used real-time animation to present a graphical world that held inarticulate but amusing characters with underlying models of their emotional state: These creatures were the Woggles. It was this thread of research that has continued in the work of Bates's company Zoesis. The other series of projects was built in LISP and constituted interactive fiction in the sense used in this book. These included Lyotard, a simulated cat portrayed in text in a simulated world, and three

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