RECOMMENDATION REQUEST: The Future of Interactive Fiction

The AR thing - Back in the 1980s, there was a rather famous book (paperback, linear) that contained clues about a hidden treasure. You would then go to real-life locations to find more clues, etc. That sort of thing could easily translate to AR.

Likewise, that “Blob” game from the early internet could be ported to AR precisely because you could play it anywhere and wouldn’t require digging up people’s gardens, etc.

Crypto/NFTs - While (almost) everyone in the “West” is against these for ideological reasons, everyone I know in Africa (particularly Kenya, for interesting reasons that I think relate to MPesa) and Asia is quite enthusiastic about 'em.

If an IF game were made today on the 'chain, it would be what they called P2E (Play to Earn). There’s already a “dungeon crawler” game (more RPG than IF) where you grind and then sell off loot or higher XP characters in NFT format. Be pretty easy to convert that to a more text-based IF format.

However, that being said, I think IF’s “breakthrough” in NFTs will probably be something a bit more literary in style/tone. Of course, I’m probably wrong :stuck_out_tongue:

On a general note, I think the future will be more about watching celebrities playing games. As big as the “gaming” business is, I think there’s an audience of watchers but not participants that’s even larger (the way more people watch :soccer: than play it).

I’m actually shocked there ISN’T already a TV show about celebrities (or their kids, trophy wives, etc.) trying to get out of escape rooms, which is a kind of live-action roleplaying (LARPing) of an IF structured game.

“Escape rooms” (even for regular folks) aren’t generally thought of as IF, but I can think of a dozen or more parser games that are, at their heart, just escape room type games, especially the ones known as “one-room” games. And escape rooms (real life) always include some kind of reading and textual clues to solve.

Oh, one more thing I completely forgot - I’m also shocked that there isn’t already an SMS (text msg) IF game out there. With Twilio, it’s certainly possible to do one right this minute in certain markets (like the USA).

Heck, if I had a bit more free time and money to spare, I’d design it myself!

That is a bold claim. And I’m a Python developer who works with a Python system that has been in constant development for the last 20 years!

Not to veer too off topic here, but have you expanded upon this view in another thread here which I can read up on? Otherwise I’d be interested in a spin-off thread.

This article is five years old, so stuff might have happened since then, but there are a couple of games here that might fit what you’re talking about (Emily is Away and Lifeline): Why more video games look and feel like text messaging with friends - The Verge

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Nick Montfort once did a small game that was really SMS – it used cell phone texting and some kind of cell phone location system as context. Because of the location aspect, you could only play it on MIT campus.

This must have been 2006-ish – it was pre-iPhone. Of course it’s long gone.

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IF has big overlap with crossword and word puzzle fans. Counterfeit Money is the highest-rated IF game, and lots of wordplay games do well (like Shuffling Around). Seeing how Wordle got popular, I could see how an IF game based on wordplay could get popular. It probably would be very similar to current wordplay IF games but with nice interface improvements.

Although I haven’t even been able to guess the present of IF, let alone the future.

Also young adult romance (especially with LGBTQ options) IF with light visual elements have done astoundingly good over time (Birdland, Choices, Love Island, etc.). I expect that to continue.

Might be good to note here:

AR - augmented reality is a technology where computer graphics or text is overlaid on the real world as a heads-up display or to create creatures or other structures that don’t exist. Sometimes this is done by using a handheld screen that reads code on cards it sees, or a VR rig that can layer images on top of the real world.

ARG - alternate reality game is where a fiction has elements that break the confines of its original media and may be hidden outright, such as a puzzle book with a real-world treasure hunt, or a movie, game or website that provides clues to search for on the internet, codes, phone numbers or email addresses that can be interacted with for more story/plot. These may mimic unrelated websites (the “alternate reality” part) that might need to be “hacked” somehow or the source code read. An example is Portal which had a separate in-universe Aperture Science website with a specific username and password that could be obtained elsewhere to log in and view camera feeds and emails/file archives.

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If you search for “Python Text Adventure”, there is a post about it.

Several people have tried to build IF using Python. Not too successful. They failed at "build your own whole IF system including all relevant libraries from scratch "

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This would be the main one and here’s another.

If you fancy giving Balladeer a try I’m available for 1st line support :slightly_smiling_face:

But did they all fail? Maybe not :wink:

Thanks, I’ll give it a spin! But what I actually meant that I’d be interested in hearing more about is why you believe Python will gain a foothold in the IF scene the next 20 years.

Second link is fixed now.

Python is (approximately) the most popular programming language in the world right now, and kids are first learning it at age 10 or so. So there will be that cohort whose frame of reference is not Infocom and Z-machine but the coding they did at school.

Others here are pointing to a lack of supporting frameworks and libraries for IF in Python.
First, let’s not forget Ren’py which is extremely well proven and popular.

Then there’s my own project, Balladeer which is new but already has several examples and a couple of demo games you can play and learn from. And there will be talented people who can go beyond what I’ve been able to manage so far.

With Python pretty much baked into every Linux distro (and even part of the Node.js toolchain) I think it will remain a significant language for a decade or two. Long enough for the library support to catch up.


Is that significant? Isn’t that only about 1.5% of the approximately half of computer usage that’s still happening on a desktop/laptop rather than a mobile device?

Ah, that’s an interesting point.

Personally, if I were playing a parser-based text adventure with multimedia interludes I don’t think I would be doing it on my phone. For parser-based IF, you’d want a decent keyboard, I should think.

I think it’s a pretence to imagine that phones and tablets are the same as laptops and TVs. Yes they are all computing devices, and superficially they all support web browsers but we all know that compatibility is in the gift of the manufacturer and some manufacturers are not sympathetic to a free and open web.
And they don’t all support text input the same way.

So I imagine that in the 20-year time frame people who want to play IF will gravitate somewhat to platforms which better support that experience.


There were a few puzzle books like that in the 80’s, the most notable being Masquerade. My family had Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse. I know of at least one computer game, Alkemstone, that tried to bring that experience to the Apple ][. I don’t think these would really be considered AR, but rather ARG-adjacent (as @HanonO pointed out).

I live in Tokyo and work for a Japanese tech startup. Can’t say I’m hearing much in my circles about NFT/crypto; or at least no more than I hear in my American friend circles. I’m not personally seeing the enthusiasm you noted, but that’s just my experience so far.

Didn’t Nickelodeon do kind some live-action puzzle-y style game shows?

IF over SMS reminded me that Zork was made playable via SMS at one time.

One thing about providing SMS or something similar is the financial/technical burden it places on the developer to provide a continually running server. Asking players to accept the compute burden isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in fact may be the only reasonable solution for most small developers.

A whole generation is being raised on Lua these days (Roblox and World of Warcraft as notable examples), I think more so than Python in the wild? I would imagine that IF systems could become language-independent, meaning some easily portable base code is brought into various languages, enabling IF (whatever that might mean) in systems from Unity and Unreal to bespoke Rust code. I recall hearing that Graham Nelson’s vision for Inform takes it closer along those lines. :thinking:

However, that said, I do not think the keys to the future should rest solely in the hands/vision of a single developer. If a new set of libraries were developed for a specific language and that language became de facto standard for using those libraries because they’re just so darn good, that would be nifty.

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I always play IF on the go meaning in my smartphone, ipad or tablet and I don’t use external keyboard. Predictive text is a feature I like so much when playing a game.
I also play graphic adventures with lot of interval videos and I like this.


Yes, my apologies. “Asia” is a rather broad brush, and I, too, have not heard much excitement about crypto/NFTs coming out of Japan either. Seems Japan is much more oriented towards the other G7 members’ attitude (and S. Korea’s) - that crypto/NFTs are a combination of pyramid scheme and destroyer of climates.

Primarily, the pro-crypto enthusiasm seems Chinese-driven in Asia, including :yin_yang: communities in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia (which the gov’t just declared crypto to be haram for Muslims, so that’ll be interesting) as well as HK, etc beyond just mainland China. In addition, crypto and NFTs seem to be really big in Vietnam :vietnam: as well.

Other big crypto/NFT communities include Turkey, Brazil, India, and Pakistan, plus the African heavyweights of Nigeria and Kenya - and, of course, we cannot forget El Salvador :el_salvador: where it’s friggin’ legal tender!

So it’s an interesting mixed bag of who’s gung-ho for crypto and who isn’t (:cuba: Cuban gov’t hates it, for instance).

I hear quite a lot about NFT and crypto in my social circles (I work in tech). Crypto has several potentially positive applications, although what these are vary among them. One person in my social circle has suggested that gaming (including IF) may see benefits from crypto that could directly affect gameplay*, though I don’t think I understand fully what those are.

    • As distinct from indirect benefits from things like improving cybersecurity or offering cybercurrencies.

NFTs, on the other hand, get more criticism from my African social circle members than anyone else I know (the biggest issues being intellectual property theft - especially of art, which is impacting visual novel production - resource usage and inherent technology deficiences in the system) - with the proviso that none of them are from countries Sam Ursu cites. The proponents of NFTs that I know of are from the USA. I suspect, however, that any sufficiently large area will have people both for and against NFTs.

Python isn’t baked into mobile but it’s a popular choice for creating non-game mobile apps that aren’t expected to scale a lot. However, I think the medium-term future is that there will be more programming languages out there that are suitable for IF, not fewer, and I’m not sure there’ll ever be a single “winner” technology - just ones that are better or worse suited for a given idea and a given creator.

There are literally millions (currently 40 million) of Raspberry Pis throughout the world all running a version of linux and they all include Python as the primary programming language.

If they are figured into the linux penetration it would be much more than 1.5%.

These stats have to be balanced against the fact that, in modern Python use, you generally install a specific version using a package manager or virtualenv. Relying on the baked-in OS version is considered an old bad habit, I believe.

Installing packages using pip and virtual environments — Python Packaging User Guide

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The RPi Foundation just released the 64 bit version of RaspiOS which is based upon Debian. The current version of Python included is 3.9.22. Just about any Python package management system is easily installed.

The RPi is targeted at education. All of the books and magazines published by the foundation are freely available.

I am not a fan of Python but just about any development language can be easily installed on RPis both legacy and modern.

I was merely pointing out that the penetration of linux adoption is probably undercounted.


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Hope you’ll find this helpful. I created a topic to imagine who the future consumers of Interactive Fiction might be. Assuming they are not simply other authors of IF :slightly_smiling_face:

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