InsideADRIFT ISSN 1743-0577
Issue 18 August 2004
News and announcements.
1. Main news
New (and
improved.) newsletter; ADRIFT4.0
release 44 arrives; jAsea no longer
being developed
1. Competition news
Summer Minicomp; Game of the
Year Competition; 3 Hour Game
Competition; Annual IF Comp IF Art
Comp; Intro Comp
4. Forum news.
Regular features
2. Editorial
3. Drifters birthdays
4. Events diary
5. IF shorts
5. Drifters Toolbox: MiniMinder
8. ADRIFT recent releases
5. Interview: KF quizzed by Mystery
10. InsideADRIFT merchandise
The (big) idea by KF
Walkthroughs just make the player
8. 3-hour game comp report
7. Getting wirelessly connected
9. Gamebooks as interactive fiction
by DavidW
Failed game intro: ..
13. “The Big Sleaze (For Sinclair
Spectrum) reviewed by DavidW
16. Manual: Variables
Issue Details: 18 (Aug 04)
Issue 19 due out 11 Sep 04
News and announcements
ADRIFT 4.0 release 44 arrives
The mythical release 44 of ADRIFT 4.0, mentioned as being out soon
two issues ago, arrived on 10 July, after what seemed an eternity of
testing. It brings a few, mostly minor changes, but most importantly a
raft of fixes for some of those annoying bugs that have troubled some.
An early problem did appear with the map popping up in front of the
runner window when an adventure started up. As always there is no
way that a limited number of testers, however diligent, can test
everything. Once the masses get their hands on things any bugs will
quickly surface.
jAsea no longer being developed
Sadly Mark J. Tilford (ralphmerridew), the developer of the JAVA
ADRIFT Runner clone, has decided to end development. I would like to
register the thanks of the community for his work, which resulted his
receiving the unanimous vote for the Most Innovative Drifter Award at
the InsideADRIFT Awards last January.
The note placed on the jAsea development site on
jAsea (jAsea's ADRIFT Style Execution Application) was an
open-source Java program to run ADRIFT games. jASEA is
no longer being developed; it has been replaced by Simon
Baldwin's splinter project SCARE.
It is always disappointing when such a valuable project runs it’s course,
and we have been very lucky to have people prepared to develop
software for free. Such projects help to persuade the rest of the IF
world that ADRIFT should be taken seriously by reducing the scope for
claims that ADRIFT is Windows only, although that still applies to
authoring of games.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Wow, doesn‘t seem a
year since I was noting
the end of the first year
of the newsletter. This
issue marks the end of
the second volume and I
suppose that should
bring a little look back
and forward
I think I have largely
managed the things I
planned for in issue 10,
by way of the regular
schedule for publishing,
interviews from wider IF
community, and
continued input from
Send any suggestions,
requests or comments
about the newsletter to:
Find the newsletter at:
InsideADRIFT merchandise
You can now purchase
an exciting InsideADRIFT
mug, if you so desire. It
has been updated with
the new logo.
The store is really not
fully operational, if you
are interested look at
More details can be
found on page 10.
New (and improved.) newsletter
With talk of revamping the main ADRIFT site going the rounds on the
forum I decided that the newsletter, and it’s recently remodelled forum
site, could do with a facelift too.
This scheme is designed to be lighter on the eye, with dark
backgrounds replaced by rules. I think it is easier on the eye, but what
do you think. You can give your views on the normal ADRIFT forum or
go to
The InsideADRIFT site is gradually evolving with static content pages,
being branded InsideADRIFT Extra, adding the extra information that
backs up the community.
Of course all of this counts for nothing if it isn‘t used. So far
registrations on the forum have been a great
disappointment. Probably should have asked Campbell to
give his server a tweak to force people to find somewhere
else for discussions. (Sort of joking œ honest!)
Not saying you have to register there, just that it means I
know people are interested.
Competition news roundup
The Three-Hour Game Competition
The results, posted by Woodfish on the
were as
1st Place: Briefcase by Woodfish
2nd Place: Jailbreak Bob by David Whyld
3rd Place: Zombie Cow by Amber Rollins-Walker
4. Lost Souls by Mel S
5. Amulet by Daniel Hielbert
6. Shadrick's Travels by Mystery
7. Annihilation of by Adam Dundas
Congratulations to everyone who took part for all their efforts,
and to all who voted without whom there wouldn't be a result.
There are some reviews posted on the Forum.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Drifters birthdays
August 2004
2 schoolsinger (20)
4 outsider (17)
5 gigabyteman (35)
8 Lena1975 (29)
15 Coolkid (16)
18 rocksockm (27)
21 Bacchus (36) malleus
maleficarum (31)
22 Minicomp
23 Woodfish (16) Damien (18)
White Divine (20) Mick ey Crocker
26 Starstream (59)
27 re_volvo (31) Filthy Bill (33)
September 2004
1 Astridian (21)
4 RansomDchs (47) cewilson (45)
Lailokken (48)
5 Campbell (28)
10 Lycaon (21) brucehum (33)
11 Rabbinical College of Cordova
13 Chaos (19)
17 Mystery (32)
20 ondre (26)
24 Jacqueline (21)
27 MadTom (18)
28 kolya (27)
29 phazonstorm (12)
InsideADRIFT Summer Minicomp 2004
The competition is now approaching fast. In the time limited competition
the game must be written during the period 15-22 August 2004. To
ensure compliance there will be required first and completion line for
the game, as well as a compulsory object to be announced on 15
August 2004.
In the other two sections, the build a better maze event and the games
limited to 10 rooms, authors can write them in advance, so are
hopefully working hard as I write this.
For more information go to
InsideADRIFT Game of the Year Competition 2004
The event at the end of the year to showcase the best of the past years
games, and any new games people want to release, will once again
take place over the Christmas/New Year period.
I have posted up the rules for the event on the InsideADRIFT site, if you
see anything you think is wrong and I may change it. Please check it
sooner rather than later as I will not change the rules once we are into
Wider IF community events
2004 Interactive Fiction Competition
The huge annual event is now drawing near, with entries in
by late September, though you need to have expressed an
interest in entering by the start of that month. A number of
drifters have expressed their intention of entering, but
actually getting the game ready and in is the hard part.
There was a rather odd argument that developed on the
RAIF newsgroup when one prospective IFComp author took
it upon himself to launch a one man assault on the
previously unreleased rule. He allegedly wanted to enter half
a dozen games, but had previously made them available to
download. Seemed more like someone who wanted to put
on a show, and be seen to cause a stir.
IntroComp judging underway
Since the 18
of July judging of the seven IntroComp
entries has been taking place, and is due to end on the
same day as this newsletter appears.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Events Diary
22 - 29, August 2004
The InsideADRIFT Summer
Minicomp in August. Entries in
22 Aug, judging ending 29 Aug.
September 01, 2004 2004
Interactive Fiction Competition
You must have signed up to say
that you intend to enter by
September 11, 2004
InsideADRIFT 19 Sep/Oct 2004
due out
The September/October issue
of the newsletter should be
available today.
September 30, 2004 2004
Annual Interactive Fiction
Entries must be in by today.
October 01, 2004 2004
Interactive Fiction Competition
Entries released for judging
(ends 15 Nov. 04)
October 30, 2004
InsideADRIFT 20 November
2004 due out
The November issue of the
ADRIFT newlsetter should be
available today
November 15, 2004 2004
Interactive Fiction Competition
Judging ends today. Results
announced when organiser has
worked them out.
November 27, 2004
InsideADRIFT 21 due out
The December issue of the
ADRIFT newsletter should be
available today.
December 19, 2004
Spring Thing revival proposed and announced
On RAIF there has been a proposal that the Spring Thing, an
IF competition that ran a few years ago should be revived.
One of the main differences from the Annual IF Comp is that
there is no two hour game playing limit for judges. This is
facilitated by limiting the number of accepted entries to
The idea was greeted with a thread that has exceeded a
hundred posts, with input being generally favourable.
The competitions rules are now posted up and everything is
set for take off.
Forum news
Much more lively this month, with quite a bit of discussion
over the main ADRIFT website. NickyDude was putting
forward the possibility of a facelift for the pages, and this
time Campbell agreed that he wouldn‘t be against an update
to the look of the site to modernise it. Campbell has now
said (19
Just so you know, I've started working on the 'new' ADRIFT
site. Once finished, it will have:
o Member Logins, for uploading, reviews etc
o Full database back-end
o Quick-links into Forum
o Quick-links to top adventures
o Search Site facility
o News
o Sitemap
o Hopefully a much more professional look
Following my article in the last issue on the feasibility of an
ADRIFT collaboration project DavidW instigated a thread
which discussed the idea further, considered possible
genre‘s and decided to try to have another go at a joint
venture. Good luck to those making the attempt, I am still
far from convinced as to how it will fare in what tends to be
a fairly solitary community.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
December 19, 2004
InsideADRIFT Game of the
Year Competition 2004
Entries for the Game of the Year
(formerly "End of Year")
Competition must be in by
1500hrs GMT today. Jusging
will take place over the next two
This event is open to any
ADRIFT games released during
2004 as well as any newly
written games.
December 24, 2004
InsideADRIFT Review of the
Year 2004 due out
Hopefully the special end of
year issue of the ADRIFT
newsletter should be available
IF Shorts
Little snippets of IF trivia
On XYZZY news there is a
small poll “In Honor of
IntroComp... Have you ever
started to code a new
adventure game but never
finished it.” It is not
surprisingly running heavily in
favour of yes, but only by
about eight to one. From
personal experience I would
have expected even more yes
If you want to have your say,
go to
and vote (it’s top right as you
look at it)
Drifters toolbox
This is one of those neat little applications that can be a real boon to
the busy organiser. It is simply a small window that pops up when you
log in and displays whatever events you add to it.
As you can see from the above you can set the period of days that you
want to be reminded of the event, and MiniMinder will count down the
days to go.
An important thing about this program is that you can set reminders for
things like the second Monday of every month etc, which makes a
useful addition rather than just having to set the day.
For more details go to
Guess we all run out of thoughts, I have had fun with the
Drifters Toolbox tossing in bits of software that I think might
be of use to you. This month I thought I had nothing useful,
then found MiniMinder, but it is becoming difficult.
If you can think of a piece of freeware/shareware software
you have found useful, please make a suggestion (review it
yourself if you like).
Interview: KF questioned by Mystery
In a change for me, Mystery quizzes me on current matters,
most particularly the competitions that I organise.
Before I start, on behalf of the ADRIFT community, and myself I
want to thank you for playing such a big role in within the community.
Taking over the newsletter was a huge responsibility that you have
done magnificently at. You are also very productive in holding
competitions for ADRIFT users, and without you, it wouldn’t be as much
fun. I think that is a good place to begin
Er, thanks. I only do it because I enjoy doing that sort of stuff.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
The (big) idea by KF
Walkthroughs just make the
player lazy!
This is a view put forward by
Mystery. She feels that
walkthroughs make it too easy
for the player to look at the
solution provided rather than
try to work it out.
While I have some sympathy
with this view, and am
probably as guilty as anyone
of reaching for the walkthrough
to quickly, I do feel they
provide a valuable service to
the player. The way I see it,
there is little point in writing a
game if no one will play it, so
the player must be considered.
If you have a tricky puzzle
early on, the player might
never get past it to look at all
the rest that you put into the
game. Much better that they
give in, and look at the solution
you provide, rather than just
give in and decide your game
is unplayable.
A decent game will have been
play tested by more than just
the author but that still doesn’t
mean all the bugs will be gone,
and all possible command
variations covered.
As a way of meeting Mystery’s
concerns the rules for all of my
future competitions will still
insist on a walkthrough, but it
will only be supplied to the
player on request to me or the
author. Of course, if hints are
well implemented, there will be
less of a need to consult a
The InsideADRIFT Summer of 2004 Competition is just around the
corner, and you’ve switched things about a bit from past competitions.
This year, you have decided to essentially have three competitions is
one, so to speak. Why did you decide to break away from the traditional
set up that you have used in the past.
Just hoped it would spark people’s interest, and having the different
formats would allow more to have a go and enter.
One of the categories in the competition is a 10-room game. Do
you feel that having size limits for such competitions offers the author a
challenge more than it would otherwise.
I have to admit I like this sort of limitation as I think it means that the
author cannot get carried away with making a sprawling game area. It
encourages them to make sure that each location counts and isn’t just
padding. I can imagine some would think it was a major restriction, but I
often think that it is a nice size for a game. In many ways it is there just
to remind the author that this is a minicomp.
The maze competition is one that has drawn some attention since
your announcement of the competition. The majority of people find
mazes annoying and quite frustrating to design. There is really no need
to explain why. If you have ever played a game with a maze in it, you
have likely felt the frustration of navigation first hand. So what made
you decide to integrate a maze into the competition.
I think I had just been on RAIF and seen a criticism of a games
inclusion of a maze. It just made me wonder if people just have a
certain expectation of what a maze is. So I then thought, on the
mousetrap line, of a build a better maze game competition. In many
ways that turns the old idea of it is a text adventure so I’d better add a
maze on it’s head.
Another factor was that, as I had decided the competition would be in
sections, if no one wanted to do the maze game that was no great loss
but if you did enter the section would reward you if yours were the best
maze game.
Following the path for something new this year, you have decided
on a timed competition, of sorts, with the details to be announced a
week before the competition begins. What made you decide to hold
this sort of event in the first place.
Personally, I find the nature of the one-hour comps just too fast for
an old timer like me, and also was so open to a certain amount of
flexibility in the timing. I am not saying that people stretched their hour,
just that their interpretation of what work counted might have been
This made me want to make a timed competition that had to include an
element that was only known at the start of the authoring period. That
said my intention is to make the required elements flexible enough to
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Getting connected
Wirelessly online
My best addition this month
has been a bit of hardware
rather than software, and it
probably wouldn’t be of use to
many of you, only those with
more than one computer that
you want connected via
broadband to the Internet (and
each other).
I have just taken delivery of a
Firewall Router, and a very
impressive bit of kit it is. In
under half an hour my desktop
machine was wired into the
box and my laptop was
downloading virus updates via
a wireless link. Having a
proper hardware firewall
between my machines and the
Internet gives an extra feeling
of security. Up until now my
efforts at connecting my
computers had failed, so in
terms of simplicity I cannot
recommend this too highly.
work in most genres.
This is the slow time of year for ADRIFT, on the Forum anyway,
were you worried at all about participation. And did you feel that
having three in one would encourage more to enter. Were you at all
concerned that having three in one would produce shorter, perhaps
lesser quality pieces.
When I first held a Summer Minicomp, in August 2001, my idea was
that it was something for those of us not involved in the mammoth
event that is the annual IF Comp. That was the first competition I had
run and had just 2 entries, being won by Heal Butcher’s “Silk Noil”. That
was a time before I had rules on minimum numbers of entries; the next
2 attempts had a total of one entry.
Participation levels are often a matter of timing, which is why I try to
announce well in advance. I hope that people will be inspired to enter at
least one section, I really simply aimed to move away from a one size
fits all competition and to allow authors more choice to pick something
that fits in with their authoring style.
I can see why there might be a concern over the quality of entries, but
would feel that two out of three sections allow the author plenty of time
to work on their games.
I have seen some of your work first hand, and find your stories quite
imaginative. When can we expect to see more of your work.
Thanks, I do hope to produce something sometime, maybe,
perhaps! Trouble is I have an idea and rush into it, then work out that I
have an idea but no plot, and no idea of how it ends. That said I have
from time to time gone down the planning route too, and haven’t
finished those either.
You seem to start many projects with wonderful ideas, but nothing
ever comes of it. Have you ever considered writing something more
linear, since there is also an audience that prefers linear IF.
I think that many of my projects to veer off down the linear route,
but they still go the same way into the dustbin of what might have been.
In many ways my taste in IF is more down the linear path as well
“Unraveling God” being a particular favourite of mine.
The Annual IF Competition is just around the bend. Do you have
any advice that you could share with anyone who is interested in either
taking part in the competition or being a judge.
I would first say think very carefully before entering this contest,
particularly if it is your first piece of IF. The event is such a big part of
the interactive fiction year, and probably accounts for the majority of full
game releases in a year, but you should be very confident about the
quality of your game to enter. The big number one rule must be to get
your game properly tested, this is relatively straightforward and the
results will make your game better, which must be good.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
ADRIFT recent
I hope this brief listing
helps drifters spot
anything they have
previously missed. In
the end it is only of any
use if something is
produced to list.
The Three-Hour Game
Competition ( 85
Kb) By Various, released 05-
This judging pack contains all
seven entries to the competition,
with a judging form and various
walkthroughs. Update: the
competition was won by Woodfish
with "Briefcase".
From the Demos Page
Demo of emotions
(emotionsv3.taf 1 Kb) By
Chuck Smith, released 20-07-04
This is a very simple demo of how
an actor's actions (hitting an old
man vs giving him a sandwich)
can affect his appearance when
examining him. Also included is a
simple "ask him about life"
conversation to show how his
response to kindness or cruely
will affect whether he responds or
not. Be sure to extract the ALR
file to see how it's set up. If you
know of a better way of doing this,
let me know.
Sword concealed in cane
(swordincane.taf 0 Kb) By
Mystery, released 15-07-04
This demonstrates a sword
concealed within a cane. It uses a
task to draw the sword.
Anyone with an interest in IF should be encouraged to be a judge in the
competition as they will see what is happening in current writing. By
doing so you will be contributing to the wider community, something
that we drifters need to do. While judging though you need to try and
keep a balance and vote on merit, not just bump up any ADRIFT
entries. I know some non-drifters will be biased against ADRIFT entries,
although with jAsea and SCARE they have less chance to moan that
they couldn’t play the games as they don’t use windows.
And last but not least, you are also holding a Game of the Year
Competition. In competitions past, the End of the Year Competition
included entries of new or previously released games during the year.
Is that going to change this time around and if so what criteria do you
feel the game of the year should have.
I am going to leave the rules more or less as they were last year as
they certainly produced the right result with “To Hell in a Hamper”
winning well. My one hope is that people will enter games written
before in the year, not just new games. I will probably have a thread on
the forum nearer the time that will ask drifters to nominate the games
they have enjoyed over the year, then pressurise the authors to enter
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. We all appreciate
what you do for ADRIFT and the community.
Always a pleasure to converse with you. My contribution to our
group is only a small part of the whole, but to remain active we all have
to play our part.
Three-Hour Game Competition
A report from Woodfish (Organiser and winner)
I was a bit dubious about holding this competition with so many other
minicomps in the pipelines, but with words of encouragement from
several drifters, I thought I'd give it ago. And I'm glad I did - it was a
great competition fuelled by many enthusiastic authors and players
(and gave me another competition win under my belt!)
As might know, I've hosted a couple of one-hour competitions which
have been quite fun, so I thought why not take the next step up, and
make it three-hours. This, I thought, would give authors a chance to
spend more time on their games, and be able to produce adventures of
a higher quality. As I found out when producing my entry, making a
game in three hours can actually be harder than one - you've actually
got to put thought into the game, and come up with something that will
justify the three hours spent on it!
So the competition got underway, and my early worries that no-one
would be interested were soon squashed. In the end, there were six
entertaining entries (with one exception - mentioning no names), and
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Running Water (faucets.taf 1
Kb) By Mystery, released 06-
This is a faucet demo that uses
hot and cold water taps. You can
turn on and off both the hot and
cold water. If the hot and cold are
on at the same time, the water
changes to warm. If both are off, it
will display that the water is off. If
you find this demo useful, please
leave your comments.
Random Puzzle Tutorial/Demo
( 4 Kb) By Cobra1,
released 02-07-04
This is a small demo or tutorial on
how a random puzzle can work in
a game...or how to mak e your
own. Included is a readme with
the full details. Being my first
release, feel free to comment
here, on the ADRIFT Forums, or
even via my E-Mail. I hope it
Failed game intros
Nothing for you this issue, I
can’t share all of my game
ideas with you!
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.
entertaining entries (with one exception - mentioning no names), and
lots of people that got involved with the judging, including quite a few
from outside the community. The results, as always in a competition like
this, were very close, and the top three underwent much shuffling, but
in the end, my entry "Briefcase" won, with David Whyld coming second
with "Jailbreak Bob".
Looking towards the future though, I'm planning to give up hosting
minicomps, and give someone else a go. I'd prefer just to sit back and
work on an entry for one without having to worry about organisation and
meeting deadlines (don't know how KF manages it). Thanks for
everyone who has been involved with all the one-hour competitions,
and particularly this three-hour competition, which has been great fun.
Gamebooks as Interactive Fiction
There was an interesting article on XYZZY News recently (“Old-style
books for possible IF.”) [] which speculated
on the possibility of writing Choose Your Own Adventure style
gamebooks as Interactive Fiction.
CYOA (for short) gamebooks, for those who've never heard of them,
were a big thing back in the 80’s and, to a lesser degree, the early 90’s.
They were books generally told in second person narrative and split
into varying amounts of numbered sections. A set of options at the end
of each section would lead to other sections, thereby allowing the
reader the ability to choose their own path through the book.
In theory anyway. Quite a few of them were very linear and often
offered different options that led, in a round-a-bout sort of way, to the
same conclusion. But if you were reading the book for the first time, you
wouldn’t be aware of this and perhaps would even think that *you* were
the one choosing how the book progressed. The illusion that you were
in control was a very believable one.
It was an ingenious idea and one which led to the publication of several
hundreds gamebooks covering a large number of genres (although
sword-and-sorcery fantasy tended to be predominant) and lasted for
well over a decade until, inevitably, the idea lost its appeal and
gamebooks pretty much died out in the mid-90’s.
One problem the gamebooks always had was replay value. Some –
(the best of all of them) the Fabled Lands series - had lots of replay
value and you could play them a dozen times or more and *still* find
things you hadn’t seen before. Others you played once (the later Lone
Wolf books), saw everything and felt precious little need to play them
again as nothing changed between one play and the next. Some books
introduced options that allowed you to play the books using different
characters (Blood Sword did this to good effect) and others (Lone Wolf
and some Fighting Fantasy books) gave the player different abilities to
choose from which changed certain of the options presented to you. All
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Although this is not intended
as a money spinning idea,
more a way to create items for
me, these items are available
for the discerning drifter to
The mug, priced at $11.39,
has a crisp copy of the new
magazine logo. It is large
enough for those beverages
needed to keep you going
through long creative
Costing $17.39, the baseball
jersey comes in red/.blue/black
and white.
Also available from
are: sweatshirt $21.99;
mousepad $10.99; teddy
bear $13.49; sticker
of these things added replay value but as the books were of a limited
size (some very limited), there was only a certain amount of times you
could replay them before you had run through every possible
combination of options and found yourself playing a game you had
already played.
And then the gamebook genre died. Looking back on it, it was kind of
inevitable that it was on the way out. Aside from the Fabled Lands
series, there were few gamebooks of any great quality released in the
90’s and the long-running series were either running out of steam
(Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf) or reusing the same ideas over and
over again (Choose Your Own Adventure). Also, there was the advent
of computers and the average teenager, the general target audience for
such gamebooks, was far more interested in playing the latest graphical
extravaganza than reading a book. So farewell to the gamebook…
But then the XYZZY article caught my eye.
It raised a number of interesting ideas, the main one being how easy it
would be to write a CYOA gamebook as an IF game. The platform
wouldn’t matter as whichever one you chose – be it Adrift, Tads, Inform,
Hugo, whatever – could handle the format easily enough and would be
more than capable of doing whatever you wanted. The only limit to
what you could do with a gamebook as an IF game would be your
Replay value would be an easy thing to fix. In gamebooks, most of the
options you are given are static; i.e. they don’t change from one playing
to the next. You come to a steel door while you're playing one time and
you might, say, be given three options: ‘smash the door down – turn to
xx’, ‘try to open it – turn to xx’ or ‘knock on the door – turn to xx’. Play
the book again and arrive at the steel door and the options will be
exactly the same.
Admittedly there were ways to vary things even in the gamebooks of
old. The option of smashing the door down might lead you to a dice roll
to determine whether you're strong enough to smash it down or too
weak to manage it. The opening the door option would ask if you had a
key. Knocking on the door might produce someone who opened it, or
maybe nothing would happen at all. Of course, you could have more
options than that: ‘listen at the door – turn to xx’, ‘use an item to open
the door – turn to xx’, ‘set fire to the door – turn to xx’ and others
besides. But, as gamebooks were of a limited size, the range of options
presented was generally limited to the bare minimum. While it might
seem like a good idea to have seventy-five sections devoted to various
ways of getting the player past a locked door, the player isn't going to
be especially impressed if you’ve just wasted a quarter of the book on
just that one scene.
Interactive Fiction has no limits. Or, to put it more accurately, it *does*
but those limits are so vast that it’s unlikely in the extreme anyone
would ever run into them. The largest novel ever written could be
converted to a regular IF game and not come anywhere near the limits
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
converted to a regular IF game and not come anywhere near the limits
of even the most humble system, and as anyone who has played a
gamebook can attest few gamebooks could compare size-wise with
large novels. Most were little over a hundred and fifty pages and few hit
two hundred and fifty. The majority were a lot smaller.
Of course, in gamebooks when you talk about size you're really
referring to the number of sections they contain. The more sections, the
larger the gamebook. The most I ever saw in one gamebook was 800
which allowed for a vast amount of gameplay. But this was an anomaly
more than anything and most of the books were less than half that size.
Fighting Fantasy generally came to an exact count of 400 sections,
Lone Wolf 350; CYOA varied at around the 100 mark. The others
tended to vary between 100 and 300. This meant there was only a
certain amount of space to fit the entire book in.
So while those seventy-five sections devoted to opening a door might
have been impossible to have in a gamebook (without swelling the size
of said gamebook to a page count in the thousands), in an IF game it
would be a simple case of putting in as many options as you wanted. To
hell with the size requirements. And while seventy-five sections for
opening a door is overkill in anyone’s book, there's absolutely nothing
to stop anyone doing it if they were so inclined.
Another advantage IF has over the standard gamebook format is in
allowing for greater amounts of replay value. As said before,
gamebooks were very static. Nothing changed from one playing to the
next and while differing abilities and powers and characters could give
you reason to try them again, as the gamebooks themselves were of a
limited size, there was only so much that could be done in them before
you were playing the same game over and over again.
Not so with IF. One great thing about IF is the use of variables to
randomise the way games play. Say, for example, you're playing a
gamebook and you come to a bridge over a gorge. You're given the
option of either crossing the bridge or not crossing it. You choose to
cross it. Several things could happen here – you might fall off the
bridge, you might cross it safely, you might decide to turn back. Other
things *could* happen but, with the size of gamebooks being limited,
they probably won’t.
In IF, you could have dozens of different options. You could assign skills
to the player. He might be particularly agile so that when the bridge
sways to one side, he has a 2 in 6 chance of remaining on it. He might
get attacked by a giant eagle partway across and by using the system’s
inbuilt combat system could fend off said eagle. There might be a point
in the middle of the bridge where a random event could sweep him off
into space or just buffet him about a little. The possibilities are pretty
much endless. With enough time and effort, the player could cross the
bridge a couple dozen times and have a different experience each time.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
And then we come to cheating.
Yep, cheating was a major problem in gamebooks. The best example I
can think of is the use of the combat system that most of the
gamebooks employed. You, the player, faced one or more enemies.
You struck a blow, he (or they) struck a blow back at you. You roll your
dice and see what the outcome of the combat is. If you win, you turn to
xx. If you die, you turn to xx and start over again. Only the slight
problem with this is, of course, that if the player doesn’t want to turn to
xx and start over again, he doesn’t have to. If he loses the fight and
then decides to take the winning option, there's nothing that can be
done about it. The option has to be displayed in case the player wins
the fight and it is still displayed even if he loses so anyone not unduly
bothered by a bit of cheating every now and then could take the
winning option every time and not concern themselves over turning to
xx and starting again.
Another example (and one no doubt familiar to anyone who has ever
played a gamebook) is that crucial time in a gamebook when you are
asked if you have such-and-such an item. If you do, turn to xx. If you
don’t, turn to xx and lose the gamebook and fail miserably knowing that
you haven’t got anywhere. Assuming everyone plays by the rules,
there's no problem with this kind of thing. But how often is it that you
come to a door you know you need to open to reach the end of the
book and, darnit, you only went and picked the magic sword instead of
the key. Oh well, not to worry. You’ve got the option in front of you to
open the door even though you *haven’t* got the key. Just take it and
head through the door. Everyone probably did it at least once. I know I
did. And a lot more than once.
Then you have the puzzles that generally popped up from time to time.
They would follow the format of “Work out the sum of xx and xx,
multiple by xx, add xx and then turn to the numbered section equalling
the result”. Usually these were simple and straightforward, sometimes
they were confusing. Every time you could bypass the whole process
by flicking through the gamebook until you came to the numbered
section which starts “Well done, you figured out the puzzle”. As this was
generally quicker than working out the puzzle the old-fashioned way, it
was widely used and made the puzzles a page-flicking annoyance
more than anything rather than a test of mental acuity.
Each of those scenarios, and many others besides, could be countered
in IF. With combat handled by the system (the player perhaps makes
decisions from time to time about how they want to fight), no option
would be conveniently displayed for any would-be cheaters to choose
so if they didn’t win the fight fair and square, they'd be back to the start
of the game whether they liked it or not. Likewise the door idea. If you
don’t have that key you need, you won’t be getting through that door no
matter how you try and cheat. Sorry. Just not going to happen. And with
no way of jumping to relevant section short of figuring the puzzle out
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
the proper way, there's no way anyone is going to be able to cheat their
way past any puzzles they stumble across.
Considering all the above, it’s easy to see (ridiculously easy in fact) that
a gamebook in IF format would be in many respects superior to
anything in actual book format.
So – and the $64,000 pops up – why has no one ever written one.
Of course, I'm not saying there *aren’t* IF gamebooks out there (it
stands to reason that there must be a few lurking around the dark
corners of the Internet somewhere) but there certainly aren’t any that
have come to any kind of prominence. I haven’t come across any
myself and I don’t know anyone else who has.
IF takes away the size restrictions that gamebooks in the past has, it
allows for vast amount of possible options (whereas before you were
limited by how many sections could fit inside the gamebook), it allows
for random happenings… The possibilities, as they say, are endless.
Someone could write a gamebook that spanned thousands of page and
took literally months to play through. Or they could write an old-style
book. Maybe even *rewrite* an old gamebook and bring it up to date.
Most of the gamebooks that I played, even the best ones, had parts
that could be improved upon and several (particularly Fighting Fantasy)
seemed to have large chunks of them cut so they would make a certain
size. Rewritten as an IF game, they could be improved and enlarged.
So why has no one ever written one.
Game reviews
“The Big Sleaze (For Sinclair Spectrum) reviewed by DavidW
—The Big Sleaze“ œ available from^Big+Sleaze%2
My favourite of all the comedy classics the Delta 4 software company
brought out in the 80’s, “The Big Sleaze” is an hilarious take on The
Maltese Falcon and detective games in general. I was so impressed
with it I even wrote a couple of games based on the general idea
myself. As a private detective you are hired by an anonymous lady to
find out what has happened to her missing father. Two weeks ago, she
informs you, he was due to meet her at Joe’s Diner and although she’s
waited all this time he still hasn’t shown. Something is obviously
Touches of wry humour abound throughout the game although some of
the funniest await you in the very first location. Your safe is in the form
of a pig, complete with an amusing description of just what has been
used as the keyhole. The game also has quite a few responses to
various swear words programmed into it and I have to admit that I spent
a while when first playing the game trying to see which ones it
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
recognised and which ones it didn’t. Hell, I was a teenager when I first
stumbled across the game and typing in “piss” and getting a funny
response to it quite made my day.
“The Big Sleaze” covers a large amount of locations but unlike most
text adventures of the time these aren’t just filler. Part of the reason for
the game’s size is that it is split into three parts, thereby neatly
sidestepping the 48KB memory restriction of the system it was
originally written for (the ZX Spectrum). As such, “The Big Sleaze” is
considerably larger than most adventures of the time and as the player
is able to move back and forth between the various parts it gives the
impression of being a larger game still. Compared to some of the
monster games written these days it might not seem a particularly
impressive size (perhaps the entire thing would equate to around 40-50
KB in version 4 of ADRIFT) but for the time it was large indeed.
Unfortunately, even with the game being split into three parts it is still
too large to fit within the memory requirements without some serious
corners being cut. As such, several locations feature a variety of items
which are unexaminable and the game, particularly in the later stages,
has a feeling of being rushed. Perhaps a better idea would have been
to expand on the available material and make it a four-parter but
unfortunately that wasn’t to be.
Progress through the game is made via your car which is first seen
parked outside your office. Jumpstarting it (quite why you don’t have a
set of keys to it is never explained) and then typing “drive to [location]”
allows the player access to several dozen more locations. At the start of
the game, precious few of these are known but by searching the
locations you *do* know about, clues leading you to the others soon
come to light. Fortunately on replaying the game, you can just jump in
your car at the first opportunity you get and drive to any of these
locations without having to hunt up the clues again, a time-saving
exercise which is worth its weight in gold.
Due to its size, and the fact that it is split into three parts, “The Big
Sleaze” is not an easy game. Various parts of a photograph are
scattered around the game and these must be assembled into a
cohesive whole, the result giving you a clue as to where you need to
travel in order to finish matters off. One complication which adds to the
complexity of the game is that it plays out in real-time. Each action
moves the clock on ever so slightly and a good number of the locations
in the game – Joe’s Diner, the bank, an office block, and several others
– can only be accessed at certain times of the day. Another location –
the park – is fatal to enter during the hours of darkness (of course, you
only discover this the hard way and once you discover it you're dead.
The manner of your death, however, is very funny and worth it just to
see an amusing way to die.) As such, on my first few plays through the
game, I spent a considerable amount of time getting very frustrated at
being unable to find a way into certain locations. I guessed I was either
missing a key or simply unable to figure out just what needed doing to
get inside. I only realised the time factor when upon returning to the
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
get inside. I only realised the time factor when upon returning to the
locations at a later stage I found them easily accessible. In hindsight,
there are clues which indicate the passage of time (a bell denoting
various times of the day) but I missed them the first time I played the
game and I doubt I'm the only one.
Only being able to access certain locations at certain times adds a level
of complexity to the game which, in all honesty, is more frustrating than
inspired. Okay, it *is* a good idea but with there being no way of
knowing exactly what the time is (no clock or watch is provided for the
unfortunate player to tell the time) it’s an idea that generally ends up
being more annoying than anything else. Discovering a clue you think
might lead to you progressing further and then being unable to go any
further due to a certain location being closed off to you is a pain to say
the least. As the game is also time-limited, it’s quite likely that you'll still
be standing around outside a location waiting for it to open when things
roll to a conclusion.
But after a few plays through, things start to fall nicely into place. You'll
experience problems with the time system to begin with yet after a
while you should be able to predict (roughly) what the time is and how
long you have to get done what needs doing before you don’t have
access to that office block or that bank. And as not every location is
inaccessible after the hours of dark, you can soon figure out which ones
can be reached at any time and which ones can only be reached in
daylight and adjust your gameplaying accordingly.
Killing the player off without warning is never a good idea but in “The
Big Sleaze” it’s handled in such an amusing manner you can just about
let it off the hook. Trying to drive your car without first examining it and
finding the present left for you by the neighbourhood kids as payback
for breaking up their dinner money racket can have explosive results.
And the less said about leaving your office without locking the door
behind you, the better. Unless you're one of those people who stops
and examines every little thing before proceeding, it’s likely you'll be
caught out by one or more of these instant kill scenarios. But keep
saving the game regularly and you should be fine.
In conclusion, “The Big Sleaze” is one of the most comical games I
have ever played and long after the puzzles have been solved you
should still be chuckling over the humour. If there's one niggling thing
about it that somewhat spoiled things it would have to be the ending.
Not to ruin it for anyone who has yet to play the game, but it left a lot to
be desired and was certainly not the best ending such a great game
could have come up with. Though often frustrating (the time factor still
catches me out every now and then and usually at the most awkward
time) “The Big Sleaze” nevertheless remains a good indicator of just
how great text adventures back in the 80’s could be.
Rating: 9 out of 10
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
Figure 1: Variables dialog box
Figure 2: Add new variable
Next we move onto that most contentious and confusing
part of ADRIFT, the variable. Many just think it‘s numbers so
its not for me, but miss out on a hugely powerful feature.
There are two kinds of variables that ADRIFT can handle; Integers and
Text. Integer variables can store values from approx. –2,000,000,000 to
2,000,000,000. Text variables store strings of text which can be
obtained from the command line and displayed later in the game.
To add a new variable, select Adventure > Advanced… and select the
Variables tab, or click on the button. This will bring up the dialog box
(Figure 1)
Clicking on the Add button brings up the Add new variable box (Figure
You must give your variable a name by typing into the Variable name
box. Click on the Type option to select whether or not the variable is an
Integer or a Text variable.
The Initial value box will then be right justified for integers, or left
justified for text input. Type in the value for your variable, and click OK.
Displaying Variables
To view a variable within Runner, you have to enclose it within
percentage signs (%).
So for example, if you had a variable “money” which starts off with the
value 50, you might put something like “Your wallet is leather. Inside are
%money% coins.” This would display “Your wallet is leather. Inside are
50 coins.” Text variables work in exactly the same way, except they
display their text value.
If you have an integer variable and want the value to appear in text
format instead of a number (i.e. “twelve” instead of “12”), then you can
append “t_” to the start of the variable name. So for the example above,
you’d say “Inside are %t_money% coins.”
This will only work for values from 0 to 20. Anything outside this range
will display their numeric value.
Assigning Variable values
Apart from the initial assignment when you create a variable, you can
only set variable values from tasks.
In task actions, you have the option to set integer variables to one of
the following:
• To an exact value – this simply sets the variable to the value specified.
InsideADRIFT Issue 17 July 2004
• By an exact value – this adds or subtracts the value specified to the
value of the variable.
• To random value between – this allows you to specify two integers
and the variable is assigned a value randomly between the two values.
• By random value between – this allows you to specify two integers,
and the variable is added to or subtracted by a random value between
the two values.
• To referenced number – this sets the variable to the referenced
number. The referenced number is set whenever a task command that
includes the text “%number%” is executed – the %number% will pattern
match on an integer value. (See References for details)
• To expression – this allows you to set a variable to a value using an
advanced expression.
You can change text variables to one of the following:
• To exact text – this simply sets the variable to the text string specified.
• To referenced text – this sets the variable to the referenced text. The
referenced text is set whenever a task command that includes the text
“%text%” is pattern matched and executed. (See References for
• To expression – this allows you to set the text variable to a string
using an advanced expression.
© 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