Ben Scott

Hello, everyone, and welcome to (trail off) (crumple up notes) (improvise)

Introduction

I’m giving a talk! If you want to follow along during the talk, you’ll need a few things.

To start writing text adventures, you’ll need to:

• install TADS 3 with your favourite package manager
• no package manager, huh? Ok, get it from the TADS site
• if you don’t even know what a package manager is:
• you’re probably an OS X user
• and you should use the installer:
• if you don’t have a bash emulator on your DOS machine:
• you aught to think about why you’re even using Windows
• now that you’re done thinking, consider getting Workbench:

Now, you’re ready for my talk! You’re ready to begin writing your own text adventure!

Well, almost.

The sample project is on GitHub, but can also be downloaded here:

What are Text Adventures?

• they’re like little books, inside your computer

• key differences:
• you can’t read a book and lose
• books don’t run from your command line
• they have been around almost forever
• Adventure was written circa 1975…
• …in Fortran for the PDP-10

How are they different from Interactive Fiction?

• they are not really
• both display text
• both use text as user input
• key differences:
• IF can include things like interactive narratives
• Text Adventures tend to be “adventurey”
• IF doesn’t need to have swords, lamps, or goblins
• Text Adventures are required to have all three
• IF might be considered more avant-garde

What are some of your favourites, Ben?

• oh, how kind of you to ask!

• my favourite is Vespers
• written by Jason Devlin
• Set in a monastery during the plague
• deals with the themes of faith, death
• mostly horrifying
• my second favourite is A Change in the Weather
• written by CMU Alum Andrew Plotkin
• a wonderful, short, and difficult story
• contrasts intrinsic / extrinsic values
• less horrifying

Can I write a Text Adventure and become rich and famous?

• No! Nobody does that.

How can I get started with this, and become rich and famous?

• again, this won’t make you rich or famous

• but now that you ask, yeah, we can get started writing

How does the syntax work, and will it make me rich and famous?

• this won’t make you rich or famous

• but, since you asked, there are a few things that can snag you:
• string literals are hard
• some are like "bleh I'm a string literal"
• others are like 'urggh, me too'
• some are even like """ And then I said, "What?" """
• or like, ''' I can't even believe it. '''
• semicolons can be traumatizing
• they can be used as block delimiters
• you can put them at the end of things
• please use { and } for any complex objects
• the ; is acceptable for really simple stuff
• the + operator works in mysterious ways
• it’s used for establishing hierarchy among objects
• using a + will make whatever is defined before it the “parent”
• for example, you can define an object like below:
room : Room {
desc = "Look, a room!";
}

+ table : Surface, Fixture
'desk/table/surface' 'table'
"""
Wow, what a table we have here.
It's plainly amazing, and also in the room.
""";


• probably not

• also, no

Now that I know how to write words, with my hands…

• do you want to know what makes a really good text adventure?

• do you want to know how to write beautiful prose?

• do you want to become rich and famous?

How do write beautiful prose?

• don’t make mistakes like that, try “How do I”

• learn a bunch of fancy words

• profit

How do I actually write beautiful prose?

• so, as I found out recently, it takes more than that

• writing good requires more setup

The Hope / Fear Cycle

• good writing relies on this
• it keeps readers / players engaged
• constantly misplace their expectations
• profit
• it can be overdone (Lookin’ at you, Shonda)
• “Oh, another plane crash and murder, great”
• “Why does this keep happening to me?”
• can cause writing to become unrealistic

Different sorts of plot

• keep track of Objective Plot
• physical progress of the protagonists
• Indiana Jones gets the idol
• Indiana Jones loses the idol
• he gets it back again
• now he’s going after the Arc of the Covenant
• he loses the Arc
• he gets it back again
• keep track of the Subjective Plot
• Indiana Jones threatens to destroy the Arc
• René Belloq knows he can’t blow up the Arc
• Indiana Jones can’t go through with it because he loves it
• René Belloq’s fatal flaw kills him in the end!
• subjective plots are much harder to pin down

Compelling Characters

• keep track of their strengths and motivations
• if a character doesn’t have clear motivations, things fall apart
• an audience will know when you’re just making it up
• give them extremely exploitable flaws
• everyone knows what to do with a greedy villain
• Indiana & Belloq mirror each other
• characters are no more than tools to push plot forward

You can write more than anyone wants to read

• this is why fan fiction is awful

• fan fiction is almost pure phlebotinum
• thank Joss Whedon for this disgusting word
• it refers to writing which is all fluff
• the actual intrigue of writing is usually not the tech
• Star Wars is a good example
• I can regale you with magniloquent poesy all day

• yes

What makes a really good Text Adventure?

• plot
• characters
• motivation to make content for a talk

So, let’s jump right in!

It’s audience suggestion time!

What do we want with respect to the plot?

• Some more plot!
• Murderous rodents!
• Time Travel-as-a-service

What do we want as the setting?

• Big
• Dark and Claustrophobic
• Room-sized