The History of Interactive Fiction - starring ChatGPT

[Me] Give an overview of the history of interactive fiction computer games.

[ChatGPT] Interactive Fiction (IF) computer games, also known as text adventure games, have a rich history that dates back to the early days of computing. Here is a brief overview of the history of interactive fiction:

1970s: The first text-based adventure games were created on mainframe computers. Examples include Adventure (also known as Colossal Cave Adventure), which was created by Will Crowther and expanded upon by Don Woods, and Zork, which was created by a group of MIT students known as the “Zork Implementors.”

1980s: Text-based adventure games gained widespread popularity in the 1980s with the release of several classic games, including Infocom’s Zork series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Planetfall. Infocom, founded by former MIT students, became one of the most successful game development companies of the era.

1990s: With the rise of graphical adventure games, interest in text-based adventure games began to wane. However, several notable games were still released during this time, including Curses! and Photopia.

2000s: Interactive Fiction experienced a resurgence in the 2000s with the rise of the internet and the availability of easy-to-use authoring tools. Many new games were created during this time, including classic-style games like Anchorhead, as well as experimental works like Galatea and Blue Lacuna.

Today: Interactive Fiction continues to be a thriving genre, with many new games being created each year by a dedicated community of writers and developers. The genre has expanded beyond the traditional parser-based format, with many games now featuring hypertext-based interfaces or other experimental gameplay mechanics.

Overall, interactive fiction games have had a significant impact on the development of video games as a whole, and their legacy can still be seen in many modern games today.

Earlier in the conversation:

[Me] Can you describe the game Zork?

[ChatGPT] Zork is a classic text-based adventure game that was released in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is set in a fantasy world and is played entirely through text commands entered by the player.

The game takes place in a sprawling underground complex of tunnels and rooms, which the player navigates through by typing commands such as “go north” or “open door”. The player’s goal is to explore the world, solve puzzles, and uncover the story of the underground complex.

The game’s text-based interface provides vivid descriptions of the player’s surroundings, along with clues and hints for how to progress through the game. As the player explores the world, they encounter various obstacles and challenges, such as locked doors, dangerous creatures, and complex puzzles that require creative thinking to solve.

Zork is known for its engaging gameplay, clever writing, and challenging puzzles, which have made it a classic of the text-based adventure game genre. The game has inspired many other games and works of interactive fiction, and has remained popular with gamers and nostalgia-seekers to this day.

[Me] Can you describe the first few moves a typical player of Zork might make?

[ChatGPT] Sure, I can provide an example of some of the first moves a typical player of Zork might make when starting the game:

  1. After starting the game, the player is typically presented with a description of their current location and surroundings, which might be something like “You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building.”
  2. The player might then type “look” to get a more detailed description of their surroundings, which might reveal additional information about the area, such as nearby landmarks or objects.
  3. The player might then try to explore their surroundings by typing a direction, such as “north” or “east”, to see where they can go.
  4. The game might present the player with a prompt to make a decision, such as choosing which direction to go or whether to investigate a particular object or area.
  5. As the player explores the world, they might encounter obstacles such as locked doors or dangerous creatures, which they will need to find a way to overcome.
  6. The player will need to solve puzzles and find clues throughout the game to progress through the story and uncover the secrets of the underground complex.

Of course, every player’s experience with Zork will be unique, and there are many different paths and strategies that can be taken in the game.

[Me] Is there a small brick building in Zork?

[ChatGPT] Yes, there is a small brick building in Zork. In fact, the first line of the game’s opening text reads: “You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building.” This is one of the most iconic opening lines in video game history and sets the tone for the game’s exploration-based gameplay.

[Me] I think you have confused Zork with Colossal Cave Adventure.

[ChatGPT] You are correct, and I apologize for the confusion. The description I provided earlier is actually from Colossal Cave Adventure, which is another classic text-based adventure game. Zork does not start with a description of a small brick building.

In Zork, the game begins with the player standing in front of a white house, with a mailbox nearby. The game’s opening text reads: “West of House. You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.”

I apologize for any confusion my earlier response may have caused, and I hope this clarification helps.

[Me] What is in the mailbox?

[ChatGPT] In Zork, the mailbox that is located near the white house at the beginning of the game contains a leaflet. The leaflet provides some background information on the game’s story and setting, as well as a brief introduction to the game’s mechanics. The text of the leaflet reads:

"Welcome to Zork!

Zork is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals. No computer should be without one!"

Players can read the leaflet by typing “read leaflet” or a similar command. The leaflet is not required to complete the game, but it does provide some helpful hints and context for players who are new to the world of Zork.


The more I play around with AI the more dangerous I think it is.

Not because I think it’ll go Skynet on us, but because of how very often it is just plain wrong.


Chat-GPT is getting better by the day. The first transcript is a remarkably accurate summary of the history of text adventures. It could be argued that some significant things are omitted, it is US-centric and it does not mention the introduction of choice-based games as a branch of interactive fiction.

The other thing that was fascinating is that it quickly recognised its mistake (Zork vs Adventure) and corrected it once you had pointed it out. This is how it learns. If more people corrected it with some of the rubbish it produces, it would learn much more quickly. The rate at which it learns is quite scary. I wish I could learn that fast.


I don’t think it’s learning from any of these interactions. Each version of the GPT model takes close to a year to train, so OpenAI probably has a couple being trained at a time. Between versions the model wouldn’t be updated. (Though they’re probably recording all the ChatGPT transcripts to feed back into the next model.)

But they do update the preamble they feed to the model before you interact with it in ChatGPT, which is like a set of preliminary instructions, usually to try to prevent it generating dangerous or objectionable content. But as people keep finding ways to break it out of those restrictions, they have to keep updating the preamble.

You know that GPT will be truly amazing when it can generate its own safety preamble :wink:!


It will learn from your conversations, but v4 is capped and when you reach that cap, it’s “memory” putters out. But it has the ability to remember anything and learn. It’s just not really allowed at this moment.


That’s just within one session though, right? It’s not like it’s learned from Mike to never mistake the beginning of Zork and Adventure?

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Yes it still makes the mistake with the brick building, but I’d argue this is somewhat misleading because the AI tries very hard to be “polite” and if you offer it false queries, it’s going to lean towards that politeness instead of the facts.


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The politeness is interesting because that appears to be part of the preamble, as Bing’s use of GPT is sometimes very argumentative.

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There’s no comparison between Bing and ChatGPT-4. Bing is using AI to do smart searches while ChatGPT-4 is a real conversation-driven AI with very real productivity enhancements.

I’ve written the basis of an IF platform in c# in a week and there’s simply no way I would have been as productive without it.

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Bing is using GPT-4: Confirmed: the new Bing runs on OpenAI’s GPT-4 | Bing Search Blog

And Bing does have a chat mode, which is what I was referring to. It is (or was) much less restrained than ChatGPT:


yea, our (that is, Italian) gov’t has banned chatGPT from our country…

Happy Easter from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I’m not sure if it is currently learning from user input, but it is true that open ai could be saving the input and use it to train future models.


I wonder if anyone has tried using it for play testing?


As others have pointed out, it doesn’t learn from interactions. It isn’t allowed to. If it were, it’d probably go full Taye within a day.

My concerns are less about it being wrong, than the way in which it presents incorrect information. A person (who isn’t a shameless liar or psychopath) will have signs of uncertainty in their speech or mannerisms, saying “I think…”, using weasel words, or even varying the pitch in their voice. AI presents incorrect information in exactly the same way it presents absolutely correct information. There are no degrees of uncertainty. Everything looks like it came from a printed textbook.

The other day I asked it to give a specific example of the Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm used on a CD-ROM, and it gave the generic algorithm for calculating CRC-32, which uses a completely different polynomial. It corrected things when I pointed out the error, but that’s just my point. You have to know the answer before you can see the problem. And that’s just math, nothing subjective.

I’m not saying it isn’t interesting or fun to play with, but those inaccuracies are going to come back and bite someone.


Maybe the next “Mars Orbiter” we slam into the surface of a planetary body will be due to someone using a LLM shortcut instead of units of measurement not being converted properly. You know, to add some variety.


Apologies if this is not an appropriate thread for this. I just wanted to share a couple of IF-related ChatGPT hallucinations.

I thought I’d try one of the red-herring InvisiClues. When I asked, “In the Infocom text adventure Starcross, what is the significance of the unicorn meat?” I got this response:

In the Infocom text adventure Starcross, the unicorn meat is an essential item needed to complete the game. The player must acquire the meat and bring it back to their spaceship to synthesize a special bait to attract an alien creature known as the Mindharp. The Mindharp is a vital component for repairing the player’s damaged spaceship, allowing them to escape from the decaying alien space station. Therefore, the unicorn meat holds significant importance in advancing the game’s storyline and achieving the ultimate goal.

I’ve tried a few others, but the responses are much longer, consisting of multiple imaginary steps to solve nonexistent puzzles in various Infocom games.

A good short one was this response to “What was Andrew Plotkin’s musical debut?”:

Andrew Plotkin’s musical debut was in 1999 with the release of his album “The Beet of the Mountain”.

What an interesting title.


I eagerly anticipate Zarf’s EP. :grin:


These are really funny.

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