when monsters fight in interactive fiction, does anyone hear them scream?

Playing IF can be slow. I hesitate to say IF is slow. But its nature lends itself to exploring, nosing around, fiddling with things. Taking your time.

For anyone who says this is a quality of text games, in contrast to shmup video games or Halo 3, remember that IF is not slow because its medium is text. There are dozens of examples of text games that play as fast as any shmup.

24%/ 13321 /Duck /ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls
Sirius thrusts at your neck with his left wing-spike.
You block his wing-spike with your aegis shield.
Sirius thrusts at your stomach with his right wing-spike.
You hop to the left of his wing-spike.

25%/ 13321 /Duck /ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls ls
You snap at Sirius with your fangs.
Sirius flies under your bite.


You’re looking at a fight from Godwars II, a mud. But a real-time mud is very different from turn-based IF — IF is slow, right? But slow compared to what? Shmup video games, obviously. First-person shooters, yes. Graphical adventures and puzzle games? Strategy games?

Clearly ‘slow’ is not the term we’re looking for to describe IF’s pace, it’s just not very descriptive. In many ways IF games are leisurely, deriving from some of the interface and programmatical conventions of IF in general.

It’s not impossible for IF to go faster than leisurely. Spider and Web, and Xen: The Hunt spring to the top of my mind. I’d be interested in seeing what other games step it up a notch.

So the whole reason for this is I just played a recent game from ECTOCOMP. Anyway, the game I played is Witness: Demon vs. Vampire, by Robert Street.

As you might imagine you are a witness to a fight between a vampire and a demon. In essence this is 50% of what Godwars II (the mud) is all about. I think this is a great concept for an IF game. However this game makes this monster fight about as leisurely as you possibly could.

It’s a little bit like showing up to a fight between a vampire and a demon and handing one of them a Rubiks cube.

If you’re going to write a game where a demon fights a vampire, for the love of Satan make it exciting. So, really this post isn’t about slow, but about action. I’ve never heard anyone call an IF a real ‘page-turner’ — not that you really could anyway. What would you call it, a real ‘command-enterer’?

Is this an insurmountable problem?

Because though I love leisurely IF, I sure as hell would love to make an awesome IF about a monster fight.

You can download the game pack including Witness directly here: ECTOCOMP, but you’ll need either a player like Gargoyle or the Adrift Runner itself to play the games.


2 comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on

    Have you played Heroine’s Mantle? It’s traditional IF but filled chock-to-the-brim with wild combat scenes.

    I also recall a review of Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies mentioning it manages to make turn-based interaction *tense* due to the ‘finish on the first try’ mandate. I’m not sure I’d call that the same thing as fast-paced.

  2. kooneiform on

    No, Heroine’s Mantle is new to me. Thanks for the suggestion, I just started playing it. Put this on the great IF games I’ve never heard of shelf…along with all the others!

    Yeah, AotYRZ is a good example. Another thing that seems to work well in turn-based IF is the chase scene (Zombies has one, as does Xen: The Hunt, and Spider and Web too, sort of, now that I think of it).

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