InsideADRIFT ISSN 1743-0577
Issue 16 May/June 2004
News and announcements.
1. Main news (Open source
generator proposed; SCARE
1.3.1; Return of OARS)
2. Competition news
(Spring Comp; Summer
Minicomp; IF Art Comp; Intro
2. Forum news
Regular features
2. Editorial
2. Drifters birthdays
3. Events diary
4. Drifters toolbox: Automated
Composing Software
5. ADRIFT recent releases
7. Interview: Paul O’Brian (editor
of the SPAG newsletter)
The (big) idea by KF
: Mazes
can be fun.
5. At Home with the Underdogs:
part 2 by J. J. Guest
11. Competitions – who needs
‘em. Part 2 by DavidW
Failed game intro: Death Row
14. Spring C omp games
18. Manual: Room Groups
Issue Details: May/June 2004
Issue 16 (Vol 2 no 7) Editor KF
Issue 17 due out June 2004
News and announcements
Open source generator proposed
The author of SCARE, the ADRIFT Runner clone written in C
(see below), has asked on the Forum what our views would be if
an open-source generator were created. Simon Baldwin
(Tedswippet on the Forum) has gained a pretty detailed
understanding of the inner workings of the TAF format and is
therefore in a better position than most to put forward such a
The idea would be to make a compiler that would take a text file,
in the format of a slightly expanded module (AMF) file and
compile it into a TAF file. An obvious advantage here is that such
a compiler would be portable making it a relatively straightforward
process to produce versions for other systems like Mac and
This could be a hugely significant proposal in the development of
ADRIFT, but I am slightly uncomfortable welcoming it
unreservedly without hearing Campbell Wild’s take on the idea.
The response on the Forum was rather mixed, with Mystery the
most vocal of the sceptics defending the position that this was
basically taking money from Campbell’s pocket. Mark TIlford
(ralphmerridew, developer of jAsea) commented that he was
against this at the current level of ADRIFT, but would like to
cooperate with Campbell Wild on development in the future.
SCARE 1.3.1 for Windows is announced
David Kinder has released a new Windows version of Simon
Baldwin’s SCARE ADRIFT runner clone and Uli Kusterer a
Macintosh version. This was until recently based on the jAsea
JAVA runner, but has moved on a bit.
SCARE is created in ANSI/ISO C, and the source code is made
available for porting to different systems. There are currently
versions of SCARE at the IF Archive for Linux, Windows and
Amiga. With a Mac version around as well, but not in the Archive,
this could soon be the opportunity to rebut the old complaints of
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
OK, I know I wrote last month
that the new release would be
out soon – as far as I can see
it will, but Mystery is still
involved in the testing process.
We all just have to be patient
as it will in the end hopefully
give us a more stable product
to use.
We have also had the Spring
Competition, congratulations
to DavidW on his win. I was
very satisfied that we had four
worthy entries and would like
to thank the authors and those
who judged for their efforts.
Send any suggestions,
requests or comments
concerning InsideADRIFT to
Find the newsletter at:
InsideADRIFT merchandise
You can now purchase an
exciting InsideADRIFT mug, if you
so desire.
The store is really not fully
operational, if you are interested
look at
ADRIFT being only on Windows (at least for playing).
Graphics are now available and a really nice touch is that it will
seamlessly run ADRIFT 3.9 and later (those files with a .TAF
extension, something the original doesn’t do.
Those of us owe a debt of gratitude to those who are putting such
effort into creating resources that broaden the playing market for
anything we create.
Simon Baldwin has released version 1.3.2 of SCARE in May.
Among the new and fixed features in SCARE release 1.3.2 are:
The ability to run Adrift version 3.80 games, as well as version
4.00 and version 3.90 ones.
Fixes for loading problems that prevented 'Doomed Xycanthus'
and 'The Caves of Morpheus' from running in previous versions.
Updated task handling to solve problems found by Emily Short
when reviewing 'The Woods are Dark'.
Assorted performance enhancements, and reduced memory
The return of O.A.R.S.
Mystery has been handed the baton as webmaster of the Online
ADRIFT Reference Site (OARS) . That excellent source of
ADRIFT information originally created by NickyDude.
Although with her other commitments, both on and offline,
Mystery cannot set a deadline for the site to be up and running, I
have seen some of her early work and believe she will be
carrying on in the same helpful manner that the site had before.
Coupling this to her continued efforts to create an ADRIFT game
that is also a workbench for testing all aspects of ADRIFT, which
is coming on but can never be a speedy process, we all have to
be grateful for what Mystery if managing to do. We will have to be
patient this Summer when she spends much of her time teaching
her sons to play the guitar and drums. Good luck with that!
Competition news roundup
InsideADRIFT Spring Competition 2004
Many congratulations to DavidW for his victory in this
competition. His entry “Shards of Memory” won just ahead of
Mystery’s “Curse of the DragonShine”. My thanks also to Eric
Meyer for “Wax Worx” and Lee Paten (sfzapgun) for “Someril”,
the other entries that completed the line up.
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Drifters birthdays
May 2004
1 Incoming (23); bluemoon (34)
6 gamerfreak 1020 (16)
8 ShogunNZ (31); Kojiro (22)
10 gscbw (21)
11 fairyale (21); azurestone (20)
16 Ray (58)
31 Heal Butcher (30);
CowInParachute (15)
June 2004
6 En Kerklaar (18); Mattaius (18);
Seciden Mencarde (15)
13 The Amazing Poodle Boy (34)
15 Matt (Dark Baron) (15)
16 Blakk Matt (18)
19 NickyDude (35)
21 Kinvadren (21)
25 Cannibal (34)
Events Diary
May 15, 2004
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 out
The May/June Issue of
InsideADRIFT should be out
22-29 August 2004
InsideADRIFT Summer
Minicomp 2004
There will be a Summer Minicomp
in August. Entries in 22 Aug,
judging ending 29 Aug.
InsideADRIFT Summer Minicomp 2004
I have been conducting a consultation process to fine tune the
rules for my next competition which takes place in the August. My
idea is that it will be a different type of Minicomp, with the writers
able to choose the type of game they want to enter.
You can enter a small game written in the week before the
judging takes place, a game limited to a small number of rooms
and, most controversially of all, my build a better maze Minicomp.
The idea behind adding the maze comp was simply to give
people a chance to think what is it that people don’t like about
mazes, and what can be done to make them more stimulating. I
am discussing this later in my big idea piece.
Wider IF community events
IF Art Show 2004
This is an annual event where the entrants basically create a piece (of
fragment) of IF as an exhibit in an art gallery. This event has been going
for a few years and the shows from previous competitions can be seen
As far as I know there haven’t been any ADRIFT entries, but that
doesn’t mean there won’t be.
Third IntroComp
The IntroComp is an IF competition where the aim is to write the start of
a new work of interactive fiction. The entries, which can range from a
title up to a full game, must be in by the 18
of July this year, the catch
being that to claim your prize a complete version must be release within
one year.
For complete details of the competition you should go to
Forum news
The forum was a much more stable entity in the early weeks after the
last newsletter was issued.
There were some quite interesting discussions, apart from the one on a
possible open-source generator. One that got a fair bit of attention was
one on possible formats for the next ADRIFT Minicomp.
There was also a lively discussion on how best to deal with some fairly
scrappy games, barely deserving that title, that have appeared on the
ADRIFT adventure downloads page. Opinion was something had to be
done, but what was very problematical as it really would have to come
from Campbell Wild.
Also getting plenty of responses was that regular favourite, the
forthcoming games thread.
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
The (big) idea by KF
Mazes can be fun!
Maybe this is just being
cynical, as I am not
normally a great advocate
of mazes, but I wonder if
part of the problem is that
we have too rigid a view of
what a maze is.
I take the view that a maze
is a series of locations
where the player has to
navigate their way through
to an end point. That can
cover a very ordinary
garden maze, but could
equally apply to a blazing
tower block, with smoke and
flames causing many
obstacles to the players
escape. This illustrates an
important point that mazes
can be in three dimensions
as well as two.
One of the problems seems
to be that players have now
adopted standard
techniques, such as object
dropping, to map the maze
and make it much easier to
In the Summer Minicomp I
have made this an option,
and, as you can make up to
three games to enter, why
not give it a go and see if
you can make a better
Drifters toolbox
Automated C omposing System (ACS) reviewed by KF
Hands up those of us who want to include music in our games
but haven’t a clue how to write it!
OK, well I have my hand up, but for quite a while now I have been
using this piece of Japanese software. It was actually linked to
from Ambrosine’s Game Creation Resources web page
In compose mode you can select from a large range of music
styles, the program creates a piece of music in that style. You can
select more than one style at once, in which case the program
cycles through them. If you select that option it will play the piece
straight after creating it, otherwise you can have it silently
produce a number of pieces.
Once the program has produced something that you like, switch
to edit mode and you can fiddle with the instruments used or use
a wizard to make general changes to the style of your piece.
The output MIDI files can be included directly in your games and
tend to be something around 10 or 12Kb in length for 2 or 3
minutes of tune.
You can also use Convert mode which brings in a piece of music
that you already have loads it and converts it to the style you
have selected. This morning I converted a bit of Beethoven to
Ska for an interesting effect.
While the music produced isn’t going to win any prizes, it is quite
effective. The program is shareware and the trial version will
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
ADRIFT recent
This will hopefully be a new
regular feature, bringing you
the details of recently
released games, as
described by their authors
on release. The details listed
here are as posted on the
ADRIFT adventures page on
Campbell’s site
Sparks' Adventure
(sparksadventure.taf 1 Kb) By
Iain Campbell, released 08-05-
You play as Sparks, an
adventurous young boy in search
of treasure. This is my first game,
expect a sequel.
Shards Of Memory
(shardsofmemory.taf 116 Kb)
By Davidw, released 02-05-04
You awak en with no memory of
who you are or where you are yet
slowly but surely your story will
unfold. An ancient evil has
returned to the world and only
YOU have the power to stand in
its way... [winner of the ADRIFT
Spring C omp 2004] [genre: dark
fantas y]
The Woodfish Compendium
( 47 Kb) By
Woodfish, released 02-05-04
The definitive collection of all
Woodfish's releases, updated,
with bugs fixed - plus a brand new
short adventure. Contains
"Topaz", "Saffire", "Forum" and its
sequel "Forum 2", "The Game To
End All Games" and a *brand
new* release, "ImagiDroids".Also
contains walkthroughs for each.
Comments to -
thank s!
allow you to produce 30 pieces before registration is required.
The charge to register is $35, and I would have to say that it isn’t
the most wonderful system for support, much of which is
Japanese, but it is great fun.
To take a look at this software go to:
You can check out some examples of what is produced at:
"At Home with the Underdogs" by J. J. Guest
Part 2: The Underdog's U nderdogs
Nick Montfort, in his book "Twisty Little Passages" cites
Graham Nelson as estimating that "more than sixty commercial
works of interactive fiction developed with The Quill were
released during the mid-1980s". I would put that number much
higher. For those too young or too American to remember, The
Quill, and The Graphic Adventure Creator were two programs
developed during the 1980s to allow people to create their own
works of IF in the comfort of their own homes. The spiritual
ancestors of ADRIFT, if you like. Of course, my computer, the
Acorn Electron was considered too flimsy to support The
Graphic Adventure Creator, so they dropped the graphics and
released it as simply The Adventure Creator (or AC) for the
Electron. I jumped on AC the moment it came out, having
previously written several games in BBC Basic, but despite all the
hours I spent working with it, when I should have been out in the
fresh air, I never released anything commercially. But many, many
people did. The release of AC and The Quill revolutionised the 8-
bit text adventure market. The floodgates opened, and suddenly
everyone was making and releasing home-made games with
hand-drawn covers (more than likely duplicated using Dad's
work's photocopier) and available through tiny adverts in the back
of Electron User, BBC Micro User and Crash, the aptly-named
magazine for the ZX Spectrum. Beta-tested, no doubt, by long-
suffering mothers and siblings, chock full of guess-the-verb,
guess-the-noun and guess-the-author's-favourite-TV-show, these
games were, as Nick Montfort rightly points out, the computer
game equivalent of folk-art.
Many 'Drifters might remember my ill-advised attempts to convert
a game called Stranded on Iloofrax to ADRIFT. SOI, by
Matthew O'Donnell, was one of four games by different authors
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
From the Demos Page
Description Display After
<CLS> (clear.taf 1 Kb) By
Mystery, released 30-04-04
This is an example of how to auto
display room descriptions after
<cls> has been used. It also gives
an example of how to auto
display alternate room
descriptions as well.
The Legend of Zelda:Link's
Arrival DEMO 2 (extended)
2 Kb) By Adam Dundas,
released 29-04-04
An extended version of the
INVASION (invasion.taf 0 Kb)
By Adam Dundas, released 26-
You are a colonel marine
exploring a lost alien hive, you
have found the hive and are face
to face with the alien queen
chairtest (chairtest.taf 0 Kb) By
NObodyNOWH ERE, released
This is a very small code demo of
a chair that breaks when used,
then is repaired when you ask a
repairman to fix it. This is done
using three tasks. No ALR or
variables. As per the request of a
message board user.
Imagings Demo ( 4
Kb) B y suture, released 11-04-
A technical demo of the project
I'm currently working on. If you've
read my post in the forum, then
you know about my troubles with
the weather cycle. You can use
the debugger to move to the room
'Church Road' and view it for
yourself, or you can just play it
through. I am looking for
constructive criticism, so I'd
request the latter. Thanks,
everyone, and enjoy! By the way,
the game seems fairly abstract
and plotless; this is all part of the
released on a single cassette by Potter Programs, a company
based in a cul-de-sac in Surrey. It was written with The Quill, and
is a veritable grab-bag of wacky ideas. You play a scientist who,
whilst testing a newly-invented teleport, winds up not at the other
end of his laboratory but on the small planet of Iloofrax. There
you will encounter such wonders as Gangron, the one-eyed
witch, a giant mechanical cat, a machine that changes the
weather, and a system of tunnels inhabited by a "rather thin
gnome" who will follow you around as long as you are carrying
the gibbleberry jam sponge-cake. Useful items are to be found
scattered about everywhere without rhyme or reason, the
aforementioned cake, for instance, is just lying around in the
forest. Stranger still was Inner Space, an anonymous l written
game in which you take on the role of a coma-stricken car crash
victim trying desperately to regain consciousness. The game
takes place in a derelict and largely deserted small town, an
atmospheric place of dark alleys and rubbish heaps, that is
actually the PC's own psyche. This sparsely populated landscape
is peppered with bizarre incongruities; glass tunnels hovering in
mid-air, an Indian Fakir with six arms, and a marble statue of Tom
and Jerry in mid-chase.
Many of these home-grown games were clearly influenced by
popular TV shows of the time. SUDS, by David Edwards and
released by Riverdale in 1986 was a text adventure in four parts
that spoofed the four major British soaps, Emmerdale Farm
(renamed Emeroyd Farm), Coronation Street (Abdication Street)
Crossroads (Cross-Eyes) and Eastenders (Dead Enders). These
games were full of woeful puns, some of which were crucial to
solving puzzles. According to Merlin's successor Pendragon: "For
instance, upon climbing a tree I discovered a herring which I duly
smoked over a war women's campfire. Hey presto, I had a red
herring. However, this has a particular use which I will leave for
you to discover. Later in the adventure I had to pour a bucket of
cement over some relatives who were blocking my path to the
next section. Of course, the result was to cement relations."
SUDS was swiftly followed by American SUDS which spoofed,
among others, Dallas. This masterpiece of interactive fiction
began: "Welcome to Dullas! Here you are at South Pork Ranch,
home of the zaniest bunch of soap weirdoes you are ever likely to
meet. The place is in a bit of turmoil with rumours that old Joke
Spewing is still alive. Your task, Just Revolting, is to find your
pappy. That's if you can overcome the devious script and the
machinations of your brother, Booby, his wife, Spam, and your
dipsomaniac wife, Pseudo Helen. Have a nice day!" So much for
the introduction. Let's skip forward to the game: "You are standing
on the helipad" begins the first description, "To the north, south,
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
story much, much further in. For
now, it won't make much sense.
Amnesia Kid (amnesiakid.taf 10
Kb) B y MadMax, released 09-
All you were going to do was go
shopping with your mom. But no,
you had one of your amnesia
attacks and forgot where your
house is. All you want to do is go
home, but along the way you end
up being a model citizen,
experiencing magic stuff, running
errands for a crazy scientist, and
much much more. Fun for the
whole family (except there is this
one part where you get a porno
magazine, thats the worst part)
east and west is a neatly manicured paddock. Miss Smelly
wanders by, her spare head tucked under her arm. 'Have a nice
day,' she twitters as she disappears down the drive."
The Acorn Electron was by no means the only computer to be
blessed with such home-grown masterpieces. I can remember
reading with deep feelings of envy the review in Crash magazine
for The Bimbles, a ZX Spectrum game spoofing the British
childrens TV show The Wombles. Priced at £3, The Bimbles
heralded its arrival as "The game no-one's been waiting for." The
reviewer went on to describe some of the more interesting NPCs
one can expect to meet playing the game: "The first of the loony
characters you meet is Great Uncle Buggeria who strains through
his 36 pairs of spectacles to utter, 'Puss will get greasy if she is
not sheltered from the rain' to which Fungo quite rightly retorts,
'Oh, shut up you doddering old fool', whereupon the Great Uncle
drops dead." I have now played this game via an emulator and I
can assure you that the same standard of humour is sustained
Sometimes when I read threads on R*IF devoted to Zork or A
Mind Forever Voyaging I feel a little left out, having grown up
without these masterpieces. On the other hand, I now have
everything Infocom released on my hard drive, along with the
complete works of Level 9 and Magnetic Scrolls. And I have to
admit they're good games. Some of them are great games. But
would I have exchanged my mis-spent youth among the
underdogs of IF for one spent in the great underground empire.
Not on your nelly!
J.J.Guest Feb 29th 2004
Interview: Paul O’Brian questioned by KF
This issues interviewee is the editor of that vital organ of the IF
community SPAG, a newsletter that packs in loads of news and
game reviews. Having started on 15 May 1994 today represents
the tenth anniversary of that first issue.
That first issue was mostly packed with reviews of some of the
games included in the
Lost treasures of Infocom
package, with
many of the reviews from Stephen Granade. Paul O’Brian has
been editor since issue 18.
Paul, thank you very much for agreeing to answer a few
questions for InsideADRIFT.
My pleasure -- thanks for inviting me!
Q1. I always tend to start with this one. What brought you into the
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Failed game intros
Lab of Horrors
This was a game I worked
on for the End of Year
Comp, surprisingly I didn’t
finish it.
Well, it is finally here, the day you
are going to die. You have been
on death row for eleven years
while the lawyers played out their
parts in the appeals process,
even though you have been
resigned to your fate for most of
that time.
It is strange how, as your fate has
been set, you have managed to
be able to sleep well. Perhaps it is
the fact that you believe that your
sentence was just, even though it
was an accident that Sally-Anne
was killed. You had been out in
the backyard, playing around
shooting beer cans off the fence
with your handgun.
The bitter irony was that Sally-
Anne was walking past, just three
days after she had dumped you
for Jerry MacArtney, one of the
local cops, and was felled by a
stray shot. Noone believed that
you hadn't meant to do it, after all
the motive was clear and Jerry,
with the support of his colleagues,
was pretty determined to make it
stick .
It is six in the morning and you
have just eighteen hours until the
unltimate punishment is due to be
carried out. the only way you will
see tomorrow is to have the plea
for clemenc y, being made on your
behalf, granted by Governor
Henry Shrubb. Given Shrubb's
record of granting only one plea
for mercy, out of the 87 who have
faced death, you are not going to
expect anything from him.
Do you have a game that has hit
the rails, but you would like to
share with the community. If so,
send it in to me.
world of interactive fiction (and keeps you here).
Probably the best and most complete answer to this question is
the first editorial I wrote for SPAG, in issue #18. The short version
is that after my dad introduced me to Zork in the early Eighties,
Infocom became one of my teenage obsessions. Then, in the
early Nineties, my interest in IF was reawakened by Activision's
release of the Lost Treasures of Infocom collections. I was
discovering the Internet right about the same time, so one of the
first searches I did was on "interactive fiction"; that led me to the
newsgroups and to the discovery that IF is still alive and thriving,
with a whole range of tools allowing people to write works just as
good as or better than anything Infocom ever produced. Playing
and writing new IF games was a dream come true for me.
As for what keeps me around, I think it's a combination of things.
Certainly, I'm still fascinated with the medium of IF, and I love
seeing it continue to grow and evolve. In addition, editing SPAG
and writing the Earth And Sky series have proved to be rather
tangible commitments to participation in the IF community -- even
at times when I've felt like drifting away, I've found myself
unwilling to leave SPAG rudderless and my game series
incomplete. Finally, the IF community contains some of the most
interesting people I've encountered in any social sphere. Being
around such bright and creative people can feel a little
intimidating at times, but it's so rewarding.
Q2. The SPAG newsletter is a valuable resource for finding a
wide range of reviews for the whole community. Does it currently
meet the targets that you have for it and do you have more aims
for the future.
Heh. "Targets." I've never been inclined to set goals for SPAG,
because it would drive me crazy to have specific aims for
something that is largely out of my control. My only real goal is to
hustle up enough reviews every three months to produce a viable
issue of the zine.
Thanks to SPAG's legions of volunteer contributors, I've always
been able to reach that goal, though sometimes it's meant
stretching the definition of "viable" a little further than I'm
comfortable with.
Remarkably, SPAG has survived for 10 years (as of May 15th,
2004), and that's only because people continue to be interested
enough in its project that they still want to submit and read IF
reviews. I'm really not sure what the next ten years will hold for it.
I'll probably hand
off the mantle of editorship at some point, though I'm not sure
when that will be. In the meantime, I don't plan any major
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
changes to SPAG --
I think it's working pretty well in its current format, so aside from
some possible improvements to the web site or any spiffy new
features that occur to me, I'm planning to stay the course.
Q3. Editing a publication that survives on input from others can
be stressful. Do you find that people are keen to write or do you
have to twist arms regularly to get sufficient content.
You know, I think both are true. I believe that people are quite
keen to write *in theory*. That is, the idea of writing a SPAG
review appeals to a lot of people, and that's why I receive work
from such a variety of contributors. However, what's also true is
that people approach IF as a hobby, maybe one of many hobbies
occupying their free time. So IF already exists as just a little slice
of most people's time, and when writing a review is a little slice of
that IF time, it's very easily delayed or abandoned. This is
perfectly understandable, of course, but what it means is that
most people need a little nudge to reignite their interest in writing
a review for SPAG. I post these nudges a few weeks before each
issue comes out, and I try to make them varied and somewhat
entertaining, but ultimately, their purpose in life is just to serve as
a little reminder and motivator for anybody with the intention of
reviewing a game for SPAG. I think I'd get a lot fewer submissions
without those little reminders, but that doesn't mean people aren't
keen on the idea of writing reviews.
Q4. The interactive fiction community is an odd group, so often
supportive yet also often aggressive in their arguments. Do you
believe that this is all part of the healthy debate of a lively group
or unnecessary conflict that detracts from its aim of producing
Neither. Both. I'm not sure I accept the premise of the question,
actually. Certainly I've seen aggressive arguments on the
newsgroups, but I'm not sure I'd call that a trait of the interactive
fiction community per se. In part, I think it's a trait of Internet
conversations everywhere, though of course the degree of vitriol
can and does vary depending on the forum and the topic. I've
seen my share of people who I think of as IF community
members aggressively pursuing a point -- sometimes I don't like
it, and sometimes I take some pleasure in it, depending on how
much I agree with the point and how much I think the target
deserves the aggression. I've been guilty of it myself from time to
time. However, I wouldn't say there's some monolithic IF
community that can be characterized as "aggressive" --
what we call the "IF community" is really a very loose
agglomeration of people collected around a bunch of different
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
loci, containing personalities that range from enthusiastically
friendly to dismissively sarcastic. There are also a couple of
downright vicious people who haunt the newsgroups, but I don't
really think of them as members of our community so much as
forces interested in wrecking whatever positive energy exists in it.
In any case, I tend to be annoyed or dismayed by most of the
aggressive arguments that appear in IF fora, whether they be
from established community members or from other people
charging in and tossing around accusations of elitism, intellectual
stagnation, provincialism, or what have you. However, my
experience is that those little flamewars tend to be a rather small
fraction of the mainstream of IF discussion, most of which is
polite, friendly, and often thought-provoking.
Q5. The ADRIFT community can tend to feel that we are often on
the margins, getting a few scraps from the wider group. I suspect
this can partly be attributed to the fact that when working with the
mainstream languages RAIF is the place you go for discussion, in
contrast the ADRIFT forum provides us with a dedicated support
group. Do you think this gives an appearance outside ADRIFT of
us being different and standoffish.
Hmm. I'm not sure I have an answer for this. Just as I don't
believe there's one dominant definition of the "IF community", I'm
not sure there's a dominant perception of ADRIFT forum users.
Even if there were, I don't think that I'd know what it is. For my
part, I think of the ADRIFT forum as one of the loci I mentioned
above when I was calling the IF community a "loose
agglomeration." Others include raif, rgif, ifMUD,,
and the SPAG subscriber list. Because I tend to follow the int-
fiction newsgroups and (to a lesser extent) ifMUD, I'm not terribly
aware of what goes on at the ADRIFT forum, but I've never
thought of that as ADRIFT users' fault -- it's just divergent
interests. I suppose it would be nice if everybody had a common
gathering place, but as long as there's some cross-pollination, I'm
not bothered, and certainly it's never occurred to me to take
offense at the ADRIFT forum's existence separate from the int-
fiction newsgroups. After all, what's on the margins depends
solely on what you define as the center.
Q6. I was just looking at the list of back issues, it is an
impressive list and makes our 16 issues seem very small. Does it
become easier the longer things go on for. (KF asked hopefully)
Easier. Well, the inescapable fact is that coming up with good
original content takes work, both for you and for your contributors.
That truth never really goes away. However, I do think that the
more good issues you produce, the more you gain a reputation
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
as something worth contributing to. So maybe it does get a little
easier to elicit submissions as time goes on. I sure hope so,
Q7. As usual, I will end the interview by asking you what you are
currently working on, and what you are looking for in the future for
yourself and interactive fiction.
I'm working furiously on Earth And Sky 3 in hopes of having it
ready by the fall. Speaking of which, it's been a lot of fun to spout
off and I appreciate the opportunity, but I think I'd better get back
to coding now...
Competitions – who needs ‘em. Part 2
A response from DavidW
The completion of last month’s on what the role of competitions
was in the ADRIFT community.
Of course, it’s best to win and no one likes to come last so in a
way I guess competitions encourage people to try harder with
their games than they would otherwise. If you're just going to
release your game to the general populace and might never
receive feedback on it, you might consider missing a few things
out just to get it done more quickly. So entering a game in a
competition means games of a higher quality than otherwise.
You'd think so, but past experience tends to indicate that, for the
most part, people take little effort in ensuring their comp games
are any better than their non-comp games. I've played some
comp games that are very good, but then I've also played a lot of
comp games that are very bad. Some are so bad you wonder
why they ever got released in the first place; sometimes the game
in question has such glaring errors in it right from the very first
location that you find yourself sitting there and staring in dismay
at the screen that someone ever considered it worthy of entering
in a competition.
Of course, in comp games it’s not always possible to cover
everything. In particular if you're writing a one hour game, you
won’t have the time to deal with every guess the verb issue which
arises and corners will necessarily have to be cut in order to get
the game done within the required time limit. Sometimes,
unfortunately, the cutting of corners results in a game that is
practically unplayable. The latest one hour comp produced at
least three that I really had to force myself to play and I was left
with the feeling afterwards that these games had been written
purely for a joke, albeit not a very funny one.
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
But like I said before, I like comps. Over the past year or so,
competitions have comprised the bulk of the Adrift games written.
Take them away and the sum total of full sized games released
last year might not even hit double figures. True, a lot of the
games written for comps are bad and should never have seen the
light of day in the first place, but they also produce good games.
So… considering all the above, are comps a good idea. Do they
leave the community with few full sized games to get their teeth
into and instead leave it with nothing more than minute efforts
that were thrown together in the space of a few hours and
probably not even tested. If there was never another competition,
would the world of interactive fiction suffer as a result.
In all honesty, the community – particularly the Adrift community –
could manage without the majority of its comps. The only comp
that the whole IF community would be worse off without is the
IFComp, which is pretty much the only way someone writing
Adrift games is going to get recognition from outside the island
that is the Adrift community.
But would the Adrift community suffer as a result of no further
In a way it would, because comps – even the one hour comps (or
maybe *especially* the one hour comps) – produce decent
games. Take them away and the community would be worse off
for their loss.
At the same time, the community would survive. Up until the last
year or thereabouts, there were few comps in the Adrift world and
of the few that *did* exist, they didn’t get a whole lot of entries.
Two comps in 2001 had just a single entry; the end of year 2002
comp had just two. Recently, things have improved to the point
where the number of entries generally exceeds the minimum
requirement by quite a bit. The end of year 2003 comp had a
minimum requirement of three entries but got six. Hopefully this
year the number of entries will have increased again.
So do we need competitions in the Adrift community.
Points for: they produce lots of games; they encourage people to
write games who otherwise wouldn’t; they keep interest in Adrift
alive and flourishing; they give the impression to the rest of the IF
community that Adrift is producing lots and lots of games
(whereas the truth of the matter is that fewer full size games are
being written now than ever before).
Points against: they produce a lot of bad games; they drag
people away from writing their full size games and they lose focus
and never return; too many comps means less prestige from
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
winning (after all, if there was one comp a year and you won it, it
would be a big deal; if there was one comp every week, winning
wouldn’t be as big a deal as you'd be forgotten 7 days from now).
I guess what it all comes down to is the individual. Some are fond
of comps; some dislike them. Some feel that more comps would
be a good idea – maybe one every month; some feel that less
comps would be a good idea – maybe one per year and leave it
at that.
Myself, I love comps. I don’t feel that more of my time is spent
writing comp games than anything else I write. I don’t feel that,
bad games aside, the community suffers as a result of too many
comps. While I certainly wouldn’t like a comp every month, I
certainly wouldn’t like as few as one a year either. What I most
like about comps, though, is that they motivate people to write
games. Consider how many people have written games for
comps that have never written a full size game (7 in the latest
comp out of 12 writers) and you begin to see that without comps,
you wouldn’t get half as many people writing games full stop.
Some people have problems with full size games and will
probably never write one no matter how long they struggle with it.
But along comes a comp where they realise that whatever they
write is going to be judged less harshly than it might otherwise be
judged and they find the willpower to actually go ahead and write
a game.
Take comps away from the Adrift community and the community
would definitely suffer as a result. So while comps might produce
bad games, they also produce lots of games, good ones amongst
them, and sometimes you just have to take the bad with the
Roll on the next comp!
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Game reviews
This issue all of the reviews are for the entries in the InsideADRIFT
Spring Competition 2004. The first three reviews are provided by
DavidW as he judges the other three entries. Then we finish off with
Tech’s review of DavidW’s winning entry “Shards of Memeory”
"Sommeril" by Lee Paten (szzapgun)
To say the beginning of Sommeril was strange would be a wild
understatement. The game begins with a kind of dream sequence
(although whether it's a dream or really happening I couldn't in all
honesty say) involving a pair of bizarre beings who hand you a
book. The next thing you know, you're falling through the air. You
drop the book and land naked at a junction of a truly unusual
town. Told you it was strange, didn't I.
The strangeness continues, indeed increases, as you wander
around. At one point I found a giant fried egg the size of a circus
tent; at another a glass eyeball the size of a Volkswagen
suspended from a dead tree. While I've played some strange
games before and enjoyed them, in Sommeril the strangeness
just seemed too… strange. Too bizarre. The setting was like a
leftover from a bad nonsense poem and left me, for the most part,
wondering if there was some kind of private joke here that I was
Sommeril is a game devoid of hints - never a good point as
people will get stuck in even the easiest of games and lack of
hints is generally one of the things that encourages them to give
up. In many places, the unhelpfulness of the game becomes all
too apparent. In a tavern, I came across a SORROWFUL SEA
CAPTAIN and a RAVING SEA CAPTAIN (yes, the names were in
capitals for a reason I never could quite fathom out, as were the
names of many - though not all - items) and I wasn't able to refer
to either of them as 'captain' but instead had to type out the entire
description. This made for some tremendously tedious gameplay
while I tried, without any success, to figure out just what I needed
to do with them. In truth, interaction with the NPCs in the game,
of which there are a fairly reasonable amount, is often awkward
and frustrating. The simple "talk to [name]" command doesn't
work and instead the writer has gone for the more difficult "ask
[name] about [subject]" with the result being that while there are a
lot of NPCs in the game, finding a subject you can ask them
about is an almost impossible struggle. A few pointers as to what
they could be asked about would have been a blessing.
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Bugs. A particularly odd one with the pile of dust had me baffled
for a while. Examine the dust and you see there's a ring there. Try
to take the ring and you're told you can't. Why. Beats me. But
examining the dust again now lets you take it. Odd to say the
least, and as the ring is required to finish the game it's a little
disappointing that the writer didn't notice this glaring bug.
I'm sorry to say that it didn't take long before I was reduced to
looking in the walkthrough. Not to imply that Sommeril is a difficult
game - it isn't, it's remarkably easy if you just have the patience to
stick with it - but that I rapidly tired of it and felt like giving up. For
me, bizarre games only work if the bizarreness is intriguing. In
Heal Butcher's The Wheels Must Turn, the bizarreness works well
because the player is never really sure just what is going on and
the setting, which actually comprises the interior of a hamster
cage for the most part, is described so strangely and vividly that
you have to keep playing just to see what happens next. I didn't
experience any of that when playing Sommeril, I'm afraid. The
setting is strange and unusual, but also not very interesting. The
descriptions, while adequate, never really bring the locations to
life. Most of the time spent playing I had no clue what I was
supposed to be doing and seemed to wander from place to place
with the vague hope that I might stumble across something that
would shed some light onto matters. Unfortunately I didn't. I just
became more confused.
It's difficult guessing what the writer was going for with Sommeril
as it seems to be an uneasy mix of fantasy, horror and the
downright bizarre. It doesn't succeed at any one genre especially
well and while competently written, it left me with the feeling that
bizarre for the sake of bizarre just doesn't work.
"To Curse of DragonShrine" by Mystery
Following a lengthy and somewhat clumsy introduction in which
the player becomes accused of murdering a girl called Jenny
O'Brien and has to flee from his accusers, The Curse of
DragonShrine starts properly once the player arrives at an
abandoned castle. Or seemingly abandoned at any rate.
I have to admit that the introduction to The Curse of
DragonShrine didn't impress me a whole lot. It seemed very
rushed, as if the writer had tried to cram several pages worth of
text into a far smaller space (to prevent the player having to read
an overly lengthy introduction.) and the people accusing the
player of murdering Jenny O'Brien came across more as rather
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
dense country bumpkins than anything else. Fortunately, things
pick up a little as the game moves to the castle where the
aforementioned curse comes to the fore.
The castle itself is large and contains quite a fair number of
locations. Unfortunately, the majority are empty of more than the
most basic of descriptions and while a large number of locations
makes finding the items you need to progress more difficult, it's
also a tad disappointing being able to wander around this many
locations with so little to do in them. A few NPCs - of which the
game seriously lacks - could have been added to these empty
rooms for some much needed depth.
The main aim behind the game is to find the body of Jenny
O'Brien (yes, she is dead after all) and bring her back to life by
use of several potions which, quite conveniently as it happens,
are lying scattered around the castle in easy to find places.
Actually, the 'easy to find' bit is probably a bit misleading as you
actually need to find several different potions and combine then
into a fourth potion in order to get anywhere. I remember finding
this especially frustrating as I never found any reference to more
than one potion being needed and expecting the player to realise
that three potions had to be combined in a cauldron and then
stirred with a spoon to produce a fourth potion struck me as a
particularly cumbersome puzzle, and not one people are likely to
figure out. Of course, I suppose clues could have been scattered
around the game but, if so, they weren't scattered anywhere that I
A few awkward instances arose. I came across a ghost who
couldn't be referred to as "ghost" but instead "a ghost" which
struck me as a strange way of handling things. Another problem
with the ghost occurred when she followed me and I was faced
with the likes of "The ghost of a young woman hovers nearby;
now and then parts of her disappear through the wall. A ghost
hovers in from the west." popping up on screen, telling me that
the ghost was hovering nearby even before she had hovered in
from the west! There was also an unusual occurrence in that a
door which I was previously unable to open suddenly opened at a
later point in the game without me doing anything to open it. A
quick peek at the hints informed me that this is supposed to
happen but didn't bother with explaining just why the door had
mysteriously opened.
A villain known as Master Dracon is referred to from time to time
during the game but I never met him at any point which was a bit
of a disappointment because there is very little character
interaction possible in The Curse of DragonShrine. In the end, his
death (told in a few lines in the epilogue) is clumsily handled.
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Despite a few references to him throughout the game as
possessing great powers and even endeavouring to achieve
immortality and rule over a world of dragons, he is killed by a few
local yokels. Hardly a decent ending for the villain of the piece.
Although in all honesty Master Dracon isn't much of a villain
anyway. Too little time is spent on making him into a believable
character and the fact that he and the player never meet doesn't
help matters.
All in all, The Curse of DragonShrine was a playable game which
felt like it had been written in a great hurry. Not good, not bad, but
somewhere in between.
"Wax Wurx" by Eric Mayer
Eric Mayer's first full size game since Doomed Xycanthus is a
chilling horror story with splashes of the truly bizarre thrown in for
good measure (including, among other things, the talking head of
Marie Antoinette). Wax Worx starts off well with the player
awaking, unsure of where he is or even who he is. A little
exploration and things slowly begin falling into place, although it
never really becomes clear what is going on. The explanation
given at the start - that you've been locked inside a wax works
museum - has an air of untruth about it.
Strange errors arose in several places throughout the game, the
most glaring example being in the workshop when I tried - after
being completely unable to locate an exit - to open a door. I was
asked which door "the wooden door or the wooden door." and
was told, no matter what I typed, that "that is still ambiguous!"
Funnily enough, when I carefully re-read the room description I
didn't even notice any mention of a door there, wooden or
"Wax Worx" is an unhelpful game in many places. In the first
location there are three doors yet trying to open any of them
results in the annoying message "you can't open the door!" For
something as obvious as this (and let's face it, what else are you
likely to type when faced with a closed door.) it's disappointing
that the default response wasn't catered for a little better. The
actual command required to open the door wasn't an obvious one
either, particularly in light of the fact that I had been told that I
couldn't open the door. Then again, problems with doors pretty
much dog this game. Several times I tried to open a door and
was told I would have to specify something openable. What did
the game think I was trying to do when I typed "open door".
There's also an annoying response ("Given your current
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
predicament, does that really matter.") every time you try to
examine something the writer hasn't anticipated. And while it's
nice that *this* time the default response has been changed, it's
also equally frustrating that you seem to get this more often than
not. When items are referred to in a room description and you try
to examine them, you should see something more than a default
response. Why put them in the room description otherwise.
On the plus side, the hints system is especially good which is
quite a relief as the game itself is difficult. Quite often, commands
which need to be typed to get anywhere (putting the nose on the
clown) aren't at all obvious and it's unlikely you'd stumble across
them without resorting to the hints. (In the example of the nose
and clown puzzle, I didn't even have a nose at the time and while
I tried a few experimental "make nose" or "create nose"
commands, I never hit upon the correct command that was
needed.) One of Eric Mayer's previous games had a section
whereby the player had to kiss a statue. This game has you
putting a nose (which you don't have) on a clown. Such
commands might seem incredibly obvious and straightforward to
the writer but they sure don't to the poor player.
The game's saving grace is its stylish writing which makes up for
the often sloppy gameplay side of things. At times it is genuinely
chilling and while a tendency to put silly in comments does creep
in and somewhat spoil the general seriousness of the gameplay,
the silliness is usually over with quickly enough so as not to ruin
Wax Worx completely.
The ending is a strange one, and not a particularly satisfying one
either. Then again, Wax Worx is a strange game throughout and
a standard, run-of-the-mill ending just would have seemed out of
place. All the same, there's a feeling I always have when a game
ends badly for the player no matter what route is taken that it
makes the earlier puzzle solving and figuring out what is going on
kind of pointless. If you're going to die in the end anyway, why
make such an effort to avoid it.
But bad points aside (and there were quite a number I'm afraid to
say) Wax Worx was well written and chilling. While it could have
been so much better, it was nevertheless definitely worth playing.
"Shards of Memory" by David Whyld (Reviewed by Tech)
The Quick Overview
"Shards of Memory" is a dark fantasy adventure written by
Davidw. You as the main character, awaken alone on a beach
with very few of your memories intact. What memories you still
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
carry leave you unsettled. From there, you are drawn into the
plot through a series of encounters that eventually lead to the
restoration of enough "memories" to clearly understand your
eventual destination in the story. Many parts of the story appear
linear; however, your choices do carry weight on the final
outcome. All of the issues that I talk about in the next section are
easily removable with more work from the author.
"Shards" has a difficulty rating of "Hard" due to these issues.
However, the great writing and well paced plot make a must
choice to play if you appreciate the fantasy genre. Just bring
along the walkthrough ( - Also maintained
by Davidw).
If Interactive Fiction followed ESRB ratings, then "Shards of
Memory" might carry an "M - Mature" with the content descriptors
of "Fantasy Violence" and "Blood and Gore".
The following was written in an attempt to avoid spoilers.
However, some might still exist as you recognize situations as
you progress through your own experience of "Shards of
The In Depth Evaluation
Introduced to Davidw's writing through his works in the comedy
genre, I gave him recognition due to the good writing and dry wit.
I had to give him recognition, like others have, due to the sheer
number of games he has released. What I didn't see was a lot of
change or growth between each piece of IF he produced. This
may be due to the fact that the specific pieces of David's that I
previously played are all nearly written in the same genre.
Recently with the release of "Dead Reckoning" and now "Shard
of Memory", Davidw has shown that his writing ability and sense
of story works as equally well for him in more serious genres. So
much to the point that I care about what steps he takes when
putting together the next ADRIFT piece. Also, I sincerely hope
that Davidw will consider going back and making a full revision on
"Shards of Memory" in order to further enjoy the ideas presented
The atmosphere of the game tied in well with the plot device of
only remembering critical pieces of your past. An
underused/under implemented verb in the game was "remember"
that produces interesting results in key areas. It took several
times playing through the game to appreciate the nuance of the
genuine effort Davidw made on the atmosphere of the locations.
Seamless time shifts are at times subtle. Unless you pick up this
kind of thing easily, this device gave a satisfying aha to me as a
player the first time I revisited a location only to find it in a
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
changed state. It gives a real sense of importance of one's goal
to understand what the player is attempting to restore.
"Shards of Memory" makes use of a conversation tree system of
speaking with other characters in the game. This works well and
allows the plot to be moved forward at crucial moments.
However, there is more depth in the story than there is depth to
the conversation tree. As a player, I felt the need to ask more
questions of the encountered characters. I needed to ask more
questions about my own loss of memories, objects in the game
and more crucially, the relationship between themselves and
other characters found or mentioned in the game. Though it is
apparent that this information is not needed, its lack describes the
general feeling acquired while playing through the game.
The general feeling is that there is so much left untouched as the
player is swept through the story. I'll say this again: I know that
this taf is already weighing in at 116kb. However, I would not be
surprised if Davidw couldn't double this to ~250kb by fleshing in
more detail. There were several places mentioned and quickly
described where I wished to travel to and explore. The
atmosphere begged for the time to be taken from the main plot
and used in exploration and interaction with the environment.
Along with the fantasy genre usually comes a slew of strange
names and events. The distinguishing mark of successful fantasy
writing is to make those names come alive to the reader. To
make them real and believable to the reader even though they
contain the elements of the fantastic. Additional detail can also
come in the form of additional time shifts within locations to
examine what was and what is.
Davidw's recent releases have forced me into the habit of saving
and using the undo command a lot. So I was prepared in this
game to restore from several points in the story. I was also
looking out for situations that I placed myself in from which there
was no recovery. There is no safety mechanism here. You are
allowed into hopeless situations without a clue. This is one
reason why I assigned the "hard" difficulty rating. Whether the
author's choice is to perform some action to keep the player out
of these situations is one for the debate forums. However, it is
recommended that the author considers giving either clues about
the player's predicament, an outright note, or preventing safety
measures (possibly implemented in an "easy" setting during
game start).
Another issue that increased the difficulty level of the game was
that some of the puzzles were "leap of faith" actions given the
descriptions and clues previously garnered in the game. Don't
get me wrong. They would be normal actions undertaken by the
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
player given additional incentive. One particular object is used to
solve three obstacles in the game. The first use of the object
goes with ease. However, the second use of the object is near
opaque. The reason for this is that the player is presented into
the situation, talked to by another character and then cannot
examine either the other character or pertinent objects in the
room that will give him a clue as to perform this second action
with the object. Quickly later in the game, the player ends in a
stalemate in the story because no further information can be
garnered that would make the player enter this "leap of faith
action". This structure makes it feel that there is a invisible veil
between the player and his surroundings causing the confusion
on which action to take next. Ensuring that examining the
environment subtly points to the right area/action and/or repeated
periodic prodding would help break down this veil and lower the
difficulty of the overall game. In the example given before, the
character who initially talked to the character could periodically
repeat his requests to the player while the player was in the
room. This would lead the player into more interaction with this
character once an impasse and no additional forward momentum
in the story was reached. Also in this area is a guess the verb
issue even outlined in the current walkthrough.
At one point as I progressed through the story, I knew what my
next step was. However, when I took it, the game informed me
that I decided against taking that step (entering the forest). On
review of the walkthrough, I see that persistence is rewarded.
However, I don't see any need to put this kind of obstacle in the
path of the player. Initially it works to keep the player from
returning along the path he/she came from. However, at this
particular point in the story, it only adds to the confusion as to
what the next step in the story really is. In this case, it gets
worse. The game allowed me to blindly progress beyond this
point far deeper into the story.
All of the important objects in the game are implemented as
examinable objects. There are many background objects that are
not implemented and produce the "You see no such thing."
message. The number increases more as the story progresses
so it's a feeling (not fact) that this is due to the volume of writing
produced and an effort to bring it all together for release.
I enjoyed the combat system employed in the game. Rather,
combat was actually part of the story and not the random
numbers hack and slash of the default combat system. It worked
well to invoke a feeling of despair as I attempted various attacks
in a situation I soon understood as hopeless. I needed to restart
from a former saved game. This also brings up the other bright
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
point, previously written as an issue, that the game allows you to
continue as far as you can even if you've missed something vital.
The Recap
I have to say that even after all of my discussion on issues that I
felt were within the game, I highly recommend to anyone else
playing through this game. On top of the writing, it is well paced
and has an involving plot.
This game delivers on its genre and has the potential to deliver
more. I've played through three times (once to completion with
the walkthrough) and I would play through a couple more times to
see how omitting or inserting various actions affects the outcome.
I look forward to the second installment. Overall, I'd give it 7 out
of 10. (Potentially an 8 if additional clues are added to the
puzzles. Or a 9 if additional backgroundmaterial is added to the
We have now started on what the manual calls
starting off with
Room Groups
which provide a
method for moving a character or object to a random room.
Room Groups
Room Groups are simply a collection of rooms. They are most
commonly used as an area to move objects or characters to
when you want them to move to a random room.
To add a new room group, click on Adventure > Advanced… and
select the Room Groups tab, or click on the button.
This should bring up the following dialog box:
InsideADRIFT Issue 16 May/June 2004
Where Room Groups can be used:
You can move the Player in a direction from a room to a room
group. This will have the effect of moving them to a random room
within that group if they go in a particular direction. The room
groups will append to the end of the room list in the dropdown
In task actions, you can move a dynamic object to a room group.
This will randomly move the object to one room of the group.
Also in actions, you can move the Player or character to a room
group. Again, this will randomly move them to one room of the
When creating a character walk, you can add as a step of the
walk, for them to move to a room group. The room groups are
appended to the end of the room list drop down. This will move
the character to an adjacent room within the room group from
where they currently are located. If there are no adjacent rooms
within the room group, they are moved randomly to one of the
room group. This has the effect of allowing characters to roam
randomly within a specific area.
© Campbell Wild, Oct 2003
Information is copied and pasted from the manual and while every
effort is made to be accurate, there are no guarantees that it is
error free
© 2004 Edited by KF.
Please send any contributions or suggestions to