Your first IF experience: a wholesome, welcoming thread

Interesting topic! Now let me see if I can shed some light…

> LIGHT LAMP

You are in the oldest section of your Interactive Fiction vault. In front of you is a huge stack of what looks like computer printouts with rows and rows of numbers and arcane numbered diagrams which resemble squashed dodecahedrons.

> MOVE STACK

You push the Hunt the Wumpus stack aside, uncovering a small booklet with Magic Word YOHO on its cover.

> READ BOOKLET
(Taken)
(Your score is now 1)

The booklet contains your personal record of the first IF game you ever played, Pirate’s Adventure by Scott Adams. Out of it falls a small plastic box containing a cassette tape.

> EXAMINE TAPE
(Taken)
(Your score is now 2)

The cassette tape is an example of arcane analog technology embraced to record digital scriptures for the Commodore PET. It presumably contains the encodings of the game, but its current state of deterioration suggests it would break as soon as you try to play it. On the back side of the box you see a note.

> READ NOTE
(Your score is now 3)

The note says “Pirate’s Adventure, typed in from Byte Magazine, Volume 05, Number 12: Adventure”.
You remember you have a large number of cardboard boxes in the vault somewhere, no doubt still containing this very magazine, published December 1980, yellowed and nearly forgotten. You remember it as your Tome of Adventure.

> REMEMBER TOME OF ADVENTURE
(Your score is now 4)

Years fall away as you think back to the time you were a strapping young lad, 18 years of age, as you eagerly consumed the wisdom shared by David Lebling and others in the Tome of Adventure on Zork and other adventure games, the glee you felt when typing in the magic code to produce your first adventure experience.

> X VAULT
(Your score is now 5)

It appears most of the vault is filled with adventure and role-playing games. There are small gaps here and there, at the time when you were seeking fortune and glory in the Orient. But you have now settled down in your home town once more, and all is good.
A blinking cursor on your PC in a corner attracts your attention.

> X PC
(Your score is now 6)

You remember reverse engineering Lords of Karma, another favourite game of ages past, decoding hex codes by hand, only to learn it was a compiled game written in Tiny Pascal. You attempted to build your own Zork engine. Your archives are piled with half-written, half-tested bits and pieces of would-be adventure games. You went back to the very first game you played, and consulted the Gods of Googol, looking for something, anything, which could re-inspire you. You remember your delight finding Hunter, In Darkness, and this very forum. You learned about Inform 7. You feel at home. Now you only need to finish your first game…

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Thank you. That brought a smile to my face.

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  • “What IF game did you first play?”

I think my first IF experience was Lost Pig, many years ago. I was playing it with my Dad at the time. I don’t remember too much about it, but what I do remember is working with him to draw maps so we knew where everything was and had ideas of where to go next. I also remember the orc either getting fired from or quitting his job at the end, which disappointed me greatly.

  • “What tech/platform did you play it on?”

We played on a PC.

  • “How old were you?”

I don’t remember exactly, but I know that I was a very little kid.

  • “Have you been steadily into IF ever since?”

At the time, I just thought it was a cool, unique thing that existed. I might have been aware of IF because of the game, but I wouldn’t have really known anything else about it until I received a book on using Twine, which was my introduction to actually making my own IF. I learned much more about it when I started reading Aaron Reed’s book on using Inform 7, and that’s really when I started getting into IF.

  • “Did it inspire you to write a game?”

I don’t think it did. At the time, I think I found the gameplay kind of boring. I was very young, and I probably desired more visual stimulation than what Lost Pig gave me. I always liked video games, but I don’t think I ever really thought about making any until much later, and I wouldn’t have had the attention span to make anything like that at the time, especially since I thought of programming as very complicated and hard to do, which I guess it is in many instances.

I think that’s why Twine and Inform appealed to me, because it’s mostly just writing in English, with more traditional programming mixed in at times. It’s easier for my brain to comprehend and use than stuff like Python.


So that’s my first experience with IF. I did try replaying it at one point by myself some years later, but I think I wasn’t able to get very far and just ended up stopping. I think I’ll try it again soon.

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Holy…I forgot my dad owned a Commodore PET!! We never had any text adventures for it though. This was before high-school typing class and I had little success with those lengthy “type it in yourself” code sections in magazines. Plus, this thing wouldn’t have allowed touch-typing since the keyboard was tiny and more akin to a cash register. Straight out of Disney’s Tomorrowland circa 1980.

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I had this one for my C64. It might be the only Sierra adventure game to make it there. I remember spending a week looking at what seemed to be identical rooms in a desert. Jimmy Maher was very hard on it, Jason Dyer less so. In fairness, Jason Dyer’s superpower is solving old, unfriendly games. Amazing, really.

I was sad that Time Zone never left the Apple II. I was quite jealous of Apple owners. Such a cool library.

It’s a shame that it’s lost to time! I would definitely try it

I’m genuinely surprised that we have so few Commodore mentions! Perhaps its an age thing; they were very popular in my hometown.

Yes, this is an important question for every child!

Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Such a fun post.

Me too. There are lots of complex things Inform can do, but it is very easy to make a room and put things in it.

Such an apt characterization! PET’s are fun machines. If the library were a bit larger I’d be tempted to find one.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their IF story. When I came home to find all of your replies waiting, it really made my day.

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No, for a small outfit with enough numerical analysis needs to want a minicomputer.

I didn’t tackle any of the other questions. The “how did you discover” was basically a co-worker of my father’s saying “check out this cool thing.”

I futzed around with IF-engine writing in BASIC as a boy. It got to where I could sit at the display TRS-80 at Radio Shack in the mall and it probably only took 15 minutes to type from memory something that supported taking and dropping things, inventory, rooms, directions, and a two-word parser and then I’d futz around writing ephemeral refinements.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been steadily into IF. A game here, a game there. I’d check out the IFComp sometimes. I don’t remember the exact order of things, but I was really excited by Bronze when I found it. @dfabulich started the Bay Area IF Meetup and I was semi-regular in its early days (and am again, but there have been very long gaps in my participation).

One time, the meetup went on the road to Santa Cruz to see @aaronius speak, probably 2010. I think Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 was already out but that it was only after that that I read it, and at least much of Writing with Inform. There was a point at which I could credibly say I knew how to write Inform 7; this was me taking a stab at an approach to a not-trivial I7 problem here back in 2011 and I like to imagine that a couple of lines in Kerkerkruip bear some family resemblance to it. But then I didn’t touch it for years and forgot everything.

In February or March of 2021, I thought I’d take another stab at it. And I was frustrated that some things that should be easy were harder than I thought they should be, so I did things like write a script to generate a browsable list of available extensions and write up what I could figure out about I7 compilation on the command-line and update (and, ultimately, basically rewrite as well as re-title) “the list of Inform 7 documentation”.

And I’ve been steadily into IF since then. There are games I want to write, but the list of extension and documentation projects is long and, for now, keeps on not getting shorter.

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My goodness. I thought you’d been at it non-stop for 20 years because you have such a handle on Inform 7. I appreciate what you do!

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‘Adventureland’ by Scott Adams.

Atari 800 with a cassette player. It took 15 minutes to load the cassette, so I didn’t turn the computer off until I’d solved the game. It was this experience that convinced me to buy a floppy disk drive. Hard disks were unheard of.

I used to read everything I could get my hands on before I bought a computer. I borrowed old issues of Creative Computing (in particular) from a tech college library. It was from this that I knew I wanted an Atari and I knew I wanted to try an adventure. Any software was very hard to find in those days and when Computer Wave got Adventureland, I snapped it up.

This would have been in 1981, so I reckon I was about 25. (Yes, I’m an old fart.)

You betcha. After playing Adventureland, I was hooked. I bought everything I could get my hands on. As software was extremely hard to find in Australia, I bought most of it from the US, which worked out to be much cheaper, despite exchange rates, bank fees and airmail postage. (This was long before the days of the internet, PayPal and so on.) I gave it away for a long time while pursuing other hobbies, but returned to it maybe five years ago.

Not at the time. I was so busy typing in games from books and magazines, playing them and writing about them, that I never had time. (I published a user group newsletter and wrote for a computer magazine in the UK.). I used to port games from other systems and developed a really nice adventure framework in BASIC. I only wrote one complete game using that framework, but never published it. I have since ported that game to Inform 6 and expanded it considerably. I must publish it one of these days. (It’s a sci fi game.)

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If we could gamebooks, the first one I saw would have been Den mystiska påsen (The mysterious bag) by Betty Orr-Nilsson. I don’t know how old I was (the book is from 1970, but I wasn’t even born then). I think my mother brought it home from the school library, or something like that. I can’t have been very old, because it only had 15 numbered sections, yet seemed amazing.

Going with games, the first one would have been “Uppsjö”:

It ran on the Swedish ABC 80 computer.

It was distributed on cassette tape to members of “ABC-klubben”.

I think this was in 1983, so I would have been 12?

No, I’ve been more into the ScummVM project. I still have a soft spot a mile wide for the Infocom games, and I’ve been meaning to replay Legend Entertainment’s parser games any year now… for years.

I was still interested enough to buy and play Hadean Lands, though.

No. Many years ago, I had the idea of making an unofficial Enchanter sequel, but I gave up when I realized that I had drawn a map of probably a few hundred rooms, but only had the ideas for maybe one or two puzzles. I’m just not very good at this. :slight_smile:

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  1. What IF game did you first play?

Space Quest II (followed shortly by Space Quest and Space Quest III). Spent many long hours trying every prompt I could think of to find every implemented parser response I could. Also spent longer than I’m willing to admit figuring out “put jewel in mouth.” Many years later, happening upon, “The Many Deaths of Roger Wilco,” I was smugly satisfied to see I hadn’t missed one.

  1. What tech/platform did you play it on?

I don’t recall, to be honest. It was a DOS-only platform, no Windows, and the game was stored on real floppies, like the big actually floppy floppies, not those 3.5" stiff squares by the same name that came later. The computer came with a Dot Matrix printer I rescued and continued using into my freshman year in college much to the bemusemet/annoyance of the folks sharing my dorm. (My Dad had purchased a truly astonishing amount of the paper for it at an auction, like a pallets worth, and it was never fully used up. In fact, near the end, I had a harder time finding ribbon for it, and the paper was used a scratch paper for nearly a decade after the printer finally died. I think there might have been some left when the house was being cleared out for the estate sale, but I think what was left (a box or two) was sadly pitched.) Anyway, that’s a lot of words to say: I’m not sure.
The only other details I remember was it was an IBM of some kind, it had an external floppy reader, and it sort of looked like this (but wasn’t precisely this):
IBM_PC_AT

  1. How did you discover it?

My Dad had various games and whatnot on Floppy and he showed me how to load them up and play one and then let me loose. Technically, my first run-in with a parser was some sort of haunted mansion game that you had to smash a pumpkin on the front porch to get the key to get in, but the game didn’t really click for me, so much so, I can’t remember the title, but would recognize the pixel mansion image if I saw it.

  1. How old were you?

Somewhere around 7-9. I don’t remember exactly. Youg enough to be very impressionable with a large amount of free time.

  1. Have you been steadily into IF ever since?

Yes and no. I didn’t discovered pure text-based parser games for awhile. I thought Sierra-style graphical games were the games using parsers. I played through most games I could find in this venue, most made in the late 80s, early 90s, but as this stock quickly ran out, I found myself going back and occasionally replaying my favorites, or introducing friends to them over the years. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I stumbled across (and yes, @rovarsson , that still hurts :wink:) a forum post mentioning Jacqueline’s website when looking up fan made games in that style. From her website, I discovered ifMUD and ClubFloyd transcripts and the IFDB, and from there, I did alot of lurking, reading, and verb guessing. I’ve been part of IFmud on and off for nearly 4 years now, but it’s only in the last year, with the change to a remote job with better income and home/life balance, that I have been able to (over)commit to some involvement here and some comps. Life may elbow its way back in here and there, but, fundamentally, I know I’m not going anywhere; I’m hooked.

  1. Did it inspire you to write a game?

Yes! I didn’t have any programming skills at the time, so I had this CYOA game I wrote on that aforementioned printer paper. I tore the strip off one side and then bent paper clips into rings to thread through the holes on the other side of the strip to make the world’s saddest form of book binding, but resources are scarce at that age, so you make do with what you have. Anyway, I kept adding to it, but I had already numbered my pages sequentially and immediately next to each other, so I started just taping additional fold down pages onto existing pages (…to scold the dragon, turn to page 133-B). It was a charming horrid mess, but I was quite proud of it at the time. I remember flipping through it as a teen and being quite embarrassed; it was a mish-mash of pop-culture and literary references and in-jokes veering wildly from one genre to another. Truly, a one of a kind. I didn’t seriously consider making an actual videogame myself for years, because I was unaware of authoring systems other than a rudimentary RPG-maker I spent far too much time with and the tileset for Fallout 2, before I realized I didn’t understand how the scripting worked, which made all the map-building pointless. (Although, watching the various CPRG Fallout 2 mods that have come out over the years, it’s become clear that the scripting for those games is considered a bit of a lost art among even some programmers, as the system was built in-house and documentation was basically non-existent because Black Isle never considered its use outside of the company.) Now, with the discovery of numerous authoring systems, I have more ideas and inspirations for games than I realistically have time for.

Anyway, thank you to this community and ifMUD for taking me in, the dirty graphical parser heretic that I am.

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  1. Zork 1
  2. Apple II+
  3. Probably bought it at the same time when we bought the computer, disk drive, and monitor
  4. This was in 1980 so I was 17
  5. Off and on over the years
  6. Yes, The Time Machine for ParserComp 2021

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Oh, I’m about to be the baby of the thread.

I’ve been into visual novels for a while, but my first IF game was Zork I.

I’m a game design major in university (graduating in May!), and all students in their freshmen year were required to take a class on important games to video game history. We had a unit on adventure games, and two we played were Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure. I think we just played those on Apple II emulators. I was 18 at the time.

I’ve been into IF ever since then. I’m currently taking a class on 80s computer games, and we had a whole unit on interactive fiction. Playing Plundered Hearts again definitely had me taking a nosedive back into the medium.

I was an artist before I was a writer, so my work has always teetered more in the visual novel area, though I’ve been trying personal exercises to create more text-based adventures. My motivation to do things is inspired by community, and I hope the people and creativity flowing through here can help out with that.

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It’s hard to explain to younger people what a luxury a diskette drive was!

I think I followed you on Twitter for almost a year before realizing you were into ScummVM. Such a cool project.

If by soft spot you mean you know everything about them and their source code, I agree! You’ve shared a lot of useful Infocom info over the past year.

shh, don’t tell anyone, but I like those too

What a hilariously cool package. The manual is pretty huge IIRC!

Ah, such a good game. Really, really, good

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It’s been bugging me, so I started searching through google image and I finally found it. Hugo’s House of Horrors. You smash the pumpkin on the front porch to get the key to get inside.

hugo

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Scott Adams’s Impossible Mission my Vic-20. It was on a ROM cartridge which I bought second-hand for about $10. I was probably nine. I had read about adventure games in computer magazines and was pretty intrigued by the concept. I actually ended up cracking the game but probably a couple of years later (I had to learn some English first, which in the case of Scott Adams caveman English was not that many words LOL).

And yes, that inspired me to write my own adventure games! I borrowed a book about writing adventure games on BASIC from our local library and ended up trying my hand at creating games of my own on both my Vic-20 and later on an Atari 800XL. I remember a summer vacation without a computer where I designed adventure games using a pencil and a notebook sitting on the porch of our summer cabin!

vic20
mission impossible

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Mine was Snowball by Level 9 on my school’s one and only BBC Model B. In 1982 I think. A (I’m sorry to say) pirated copy. I still remember the Vivaldi it played while it was loading. I must have been 12 or so. As I recall, I never, ever managed to solve any puzzles at all, so it’s a surprise really that I grew to love parser If so very much. I think it might have been Trinity that tipped the scales.

Later edit: In fact, I’ve just realised - I still haven’t ever completed snowball. I’m going to play it again. Right now.

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Even though this is only the third Adventure International game, I don’t think I’ve ever heard (read) it mentioned. That may be because at some point it was also “Secret Mission.” Love the Vic 20 as the C64’s big brother.

I have to confess here: I’ve never played a level 9 game. This wasn’t a principled choice. It’s just that the hackers in my hometown didn’t pass them around. I’ve publicly promised several people that I’ll try one after the Infocom stuff, so… early '24, probably

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I think our self-styled “Creator of the Personal Computer Gaming Industry”, a.k.a. Scott Adams landed in some legal trouble after his unlicensed use of the TV show name Mission Impossible, and the same game has subsequently been marketed as Impossible Mission, Secret Mission, and Atomic Mission.

And yeah, I’m going to go play Mission Impossible right now to see if I still got what it takes to save the world :slight_smile:

Mission Impossible was tough, but pretty fair for its time. There are so many ways to set off the bomb, ending your game.

  1. What IF game did you first play?
    Questprobe HULK! by Scott Adams

  2. What tech/platform did you play it on?
    ZX Spectrum 48k

  3. How did you discover it?
    It was 1985 and my 17 years old self was heavily into comic-books reading. We went to a friend’s house to play some random games with his brand new ZX Spectrum and a pirated copy of Hulk was lying around. As a marvel fan I decided we should load and try that…
    … Luckily there was printed solution at hand in an issue of the spanish games magazine Micro-mania, otherwise we would still be there “tied hand and foot to a chair” XDD
    After the chair thing we managed to move around a bit, but most answers to our commands were the infamous “I don’t know what a XXXX is” or “I don’t know how to XXXX something”. That was frustrating. Then, unexpectedly, the answer just went out like:
    “I must be stupid, but I just don’t understand what you mean”
    We looked at each other… one of us started to laugh… other laughed louder… in less than half a minute we were all ROFL with the greatest strike of contagious laughter I’ve had for many years. And I was hooked and I just knew that more than arcade and platforms games this was definitely the kind of stuff I wanted to play with computers.

  4. How old were you?
    17 (but I mentioned that before :slight_smile: )

  5. Have you been steadily into IF ever since?
    On and off, but in the long term, yeah!

  6. Did it inspire you to write a game?
    Not exactly. One year later I had saved enough money to buy my own Speccy and by that time I was reading the text adventure chapters of the games programming course in the spanish “INPUT Sinclair” magazine, which were (that I knew many years later) a direct translation from the ones in the British INPUT magazine edited by Marshall Cavendish. That inspired me to write my first text adv for the Spectrum.

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