Lesser-Known Great Moments in IF?

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of writing about various theories of IF craft (much of it by very knowledgeable people whose work I admire), and I have seen much written about a few high points in the genre. However, popularity contests always have a long tail, and I thought it might be interesting to gather some examples from people here about what they consider to be great moments in IF of any type from any era.

I’m inviting you (yes, you!) to lay out your own description of a great moment and to try to make the rest of us understand what you liked about it. If you would like to participate, then when describing any great moment please try to mention: the work in which it occurred, your level of experience with IF when you encountered it, and what makes it great in your opinion. If you are an author, then please also add what (if anything) you learned about craft from it.

Please understand that this is not about what constitutes a great moment on some absolute scale – what constitutes a great moment will always be a subjective call, and the reasons that something seems great aren’t always easy to pin down with words. That said, I’m not looking for a rehash of the widely-known and widely-celebrated great moments (e.g. The Puzzle in Spider and Web, escaping the maze in Photopia, killing the dragon in Adventure, etc.). I’m looking for what the typical player has to say about their own subjective experiences of great moments, preferably ones that don’t have wide recognition. I would ask that if considering two or more different moments to post about, you choose the more obscure work and/or less-discussed moment.

Also, please understand that I really don’t want to see this thread get bogged down with various people criticizing the merits of someone else’s choice, as seems to have happened with this old thread: Memorable Moments in IF. Instead of your view on someone else’s selection, I think everyone reading would benefit much more from your view on a different great moment of your choosing.

Finally, note that this exercise is almost guaranteed to be EXTREMELY SPOILERY. I think it’s pretty clear that sometimes even just a little advance knowledge about a work can dramatically change one’s experience of it, so for the sake of fellow players please err on the side of caution when deploying spoiler tags.


I was totally new to IF, played Infocom’s “A mind forever voyaging” (AMFV) and when I realized that my recordings had some significance and that “I” was about to document something (for the game world) politically important, that was a great moment. I thought “Hey this not just running and fooling around as a computer in a simulation, this is relevant.” I was excited about this meaningfulness (a bit to real world politics, but I was more excited about the relevance to the game world).


I find times that nearly made me cry (or other strong emotions) are great moments. Like in En Garde, like the whole time. And the main ending of Eat Me. And when I realised the answer to the good puzzles (and realising that I had been diverted) in Arthur: the Quest fur Excalibur. Etcetera etcétera.


At the time, I found IF interesting but lacked experience. I went around the IFDB looking for beginner-friendly and/or popular games—The Dreamhold, Counterfeit Monkey, Lost Pig, Photopia—but for whatever reason none of them clicked, and I got too frustrated or bored playing them and gave up (keep in mind these were my first explorations with IF, in a world of fancy graphics and short attention spans). But then I found Violet. Violet just…clicked. Something about the puzzles, or the story, or maybe the hint system, but it just made sense in my head. That was the first IF game that I ever finished, and oh was it satisfying, in a way that I haven’t felt in a while with modern games.


Oh, man, it was long enough ago that I can’t remember the full details. But I remember trying some bizarre letter-manipulation in Counterfeit Monkey and just being astounded that it actually worked and was fully implemented.


Cragne Manor had so many longer rooms that basically told self-contained stories in their own right, and running into them was always a treat. The one that stuck out to me most was the Narthex. You play as a girl named Jessica in a Catholic school, and you’re also possessed by demons. You invite your crush, Brandon, out to the dance. A lot happens, and it culminates in a horrific scene of Brandon hanging himself.

“I became a nun because I figured that way I’d never feel what it was like to burn.”

Damn. The entire thing broke me. One of the most vivid memories I have of playing this game.

On a similar note, Opening Night is an emotional story where a factory worker wants to give a rose to his favorite actress. Throughout the game, you start noticing things that aren’t quite right, and while it’s never 100% explained what’s happening to the main character, the conclusions you can draw end up being pretty sad. It’s a short game so I’d recommend playing it first, but getting to put the rose in the actress’s dressing room after her death felt like a nice capper to everything.

Most recently, the part of Never Gives Up Her Dead right before the final puzzle stretch was quite moving. You get to reunite with characters from all around the game in a museum in your honor, and reading the exhibits contextualizes and explains your actions throughout the game and what impact they’ve had on the future. It’s a beautiful scene.


What was it? I’d like to know.


I’m afraid it was long enough ago that I can’t remember the full details.


First time I played Worlds Apart was full of moments like these.

20 years ago, I got interested in this new medium. I don’t know how I found it, but I had stumbled across Baf’s Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive. I started randomly playing games from the 5-star list. I think Worlds Apart was the fifth or sixth IF game I ever played.

There’s a moment where you’ve explored the entire map and have grown quite familiar with it, when “Haven”, a location you’ve known as friendly and safe, shifts to “Darkened Haven”. It’s a dark and starkly star- and moonlight lit place, with an atmosphere of mythological grandeur while still retaining all the once-comforting elements of the well known place from before.

I was enchanted. I remember holding my breath as I examined this new place, as if pressing X too brusquely would disturb the mirage. Truly wonderful.


I don’t know whether this is widely celebrated or not, I have certainly seen it mentioned in reviews afterwards.

The solution to the shooting gallery puzzle in Scott Adams’s Mystery Fun House is so simple(as opposed to convoluted), it left me speechless for a moment. It made sense much like putting on your seat belt in a moving car does, it is logical and doesn’t require signposts(!) and indeed one wasn’t provided in the game. I wasn’t expecting such a fine puzzle in a game of that 8-bit text adventures era perhaps. I didn’t even get to solve it on my own without help, was a great moment nevertheless.


One lesser-known moment I really enjoy is the part in Deadline Enchanter where you find a magical elevator device and you realize it’s actually the narrator’s grandfather, still alive, his chest opened to use magical levitation, and that’s when I realized just how alien and strange the world was.

One of the greatest funny moments in any game I’ve played is To Hell in a Hamper when you annoying balloon-mate has constantly refused to drop things out of the basket because his aunt gave it to him, when you finally discover that his aunt has been inside the trenchcoat all along. It gets even funnier when you realize that you have to throw her out of the basket somehow as well.


Figuring out how to blow up the safe in Scott Adams’s Ghost Town was a great moment for me, and it inspired a puzzle in one of my own games. Getting it wrong also gives you one of the funniest responses I’ve seen in a game from that era!


The moment at the end of Repeat the Ending when you need a way into the hospital, so you siphon the wasted energy from the freeway to propel yourself up to the roof—that one really struck me at the time and has stuck with me since.


I was blown away with Seedship, by John Ayliff. I’ve come to the realization that choice-based IF can successfully be a replayable simulation, with a solid journey, that has emotional weight expressed through consequences.

When you finally get a knack for the strategy, you begin to try to maximize your score. The mission ends when you land on a planet and allow humanity to rebuild itself (with the resources you have remaining), then it’s a mini-story of how the people struggle and eventually rebuild society (or fail in the process). It was (by repeatedly) playing through this “moment” that I realized I didn’t want to play the game to get the best score. I wanted to play the game to give humanity the best chance at a quality life. I was enjoying the journey (the simulated story) and a higher score (though still a cool achievement) was inconsequential.

On the surface, Seedship doesn’t look like a story at all. However, there is a compelling science fiction tale involving the fate of humanity with every play through. I honestly don’t think it would be as impactful if you stripped away the prose and replaced it with graphics (like how most games approaching this style of gameplay would do it). The game benefits from being text-based IF.

I still feel bad that I rotated the ship to shield the archived knowledge of humanity over that of the lives of 181 passengers in stasis (who knew that impact would be so devastating?). However, I am an AI piloting the last hope of humanity, and I’m incapable of emotion. The loss of organic sentient resources was acceptable in accordance with my prime directives. :wink:


Yeah, but what lives would those 181 passengers have had (along with all the other travelers), if they were condemned to build a civilization without a knowledge base?
Tough decisions.

EDIT: I just gave it another go.

Seedship results:

Garden’s tall alien plants reach hundreds of metres into a blue sky. The colonists live in tall stone-walled cities with buildings sealed against the planet’s harsh environment, beside rivers that flow into the planet’s oceans. The cities are built around parliament buildings, where assemblies of citizens rule for the good of all. In the first city stands a monument to the seedship AI that guided humanity to its new home.

Planets visited: 4

Planet atmosphere: 500
Planet gravity: 250
Planet temperature: 250
Planet water: 500
Planet resources: 0
Survivors after landing: 1000
Survivors after settlement construction: 1000
Final technology level (Neolithic): 600
Final culture (Egalitarian Republic): 2000
Surviving scientific database × 10: 300
Surviving cultural database × 10: 1000
Total: 7400

I especially like the combination “neolithic technology” and “egalitarian republic”.


Exactly. Moral dilemmas, ethics, values… Seedship makes you stretch those kinds of muscles more than most games I’ve played. It’s never a perfect win. There are always trade-offs.

1 Like