A Farewell

After releasing three great volumes I am sorry to announce that Inky Path is closing its doors.

Inky started off as little more than a dream, and with the help of my amazing editors and an immense amount of support from the interactive fiction community, Inky grew into a great mag showcasing interactive fiction for both the IF community and those outside of IF. Inky Path began with two main goals–connecting the IF community and the outside world, and bringing different forms of IF together under one roof. And I think Inky succeeded in that goal, its volumes knitting together different interactive fiction and presenting IF as work of literary value. It was an experiment, and I’d like to think that it succeeded.

Inky Path was a great experience, and I’d like to once again thank everyone who helped make this possible, including a special shout-out to our contributors. Without you all, we wouldn’t have a magazine! I would also like to thank astounding editors Reagan Neviska, Irene Enlow, and Lia Lewine, who brought this mag to life and stuck with me through thick and thin.

And just because the mag is over doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else left in store. We’ll still be updating the blog occasionally to keep up with the latest IF news. And I’ll still be around the IF community, perhaps cooking up some new IF experiments.

Thank you once more, and farewell for now.

 

Sincerely,

Devi Acharya

Editor-in-Chief

 

From Story Papers to CYOA: An Interview with Demian Katz on VuPop

In case you missed it, Villanova University hosted VuPop, a conference on interactive fiction featuring some great speakers discussing everything from gender in historical fiction to bioethics awareness. Demian Katz discusses the conference, noting the highlights and reflecting on what went well and future possibilities.

Why Villanova University? What is the brief history of VuPop?

VuPop started in 2013 after a forgotten collection of dime novels was rediscovered in the basement of Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library. This seemed like a good excuse to begin a series of events highlighting interesting areas of popular culture worthy of deeper academic study. The second year’s topic was chosen as gamebooks simply because it happens to be my area of expertise; next year’s will look at 3-D technology in entertainment to tie in to the installation of a CAVE system in the library.

What were some of the highlights from VuPop?

Attendees at VuPop were rewarded for their travels with some nice give-aways courtesy of ChooseCo and Tin Man Games – not bad for a completely free event. Some of the day’s presentations offered solid overviews of several areas of interactive fiction: gamebooks, electronic adventure games, and visual novels. The remainder were either inspirational – Chris Liu’s talk on special considerations for writing interactively, and Randy Cook’s reflections on the power of the form – or more specialized – Rebecca Slitt’s look at handling gender in historical interactive fiction, and David Perlman’s discussion of utilizing interactive fiction for educational purposes, specifically in the area of bioethics. Many talks prompted some good audience questions, and all had something interesting to offer both the veteran and the newcomer. This was capped off with a live reading of my new gamebook, The Groom of the Tomb, which went a long way toward reassuring me that the book is actually fun to play, and an informal game night that offered opportunities for attendees and speakers to get to know each other better. Given the extremely specialized nature of this event, it’s unlikely that Villanova would ever repeat it – but I’d love to see something similar happen again in another venue.

The schedule of events mentions a Special Collections Tour. What did that involve?

Since some people were traveling some distance to the event, we wanted to extend our hospitality for an extra day to those who were interested. Thus, we offered the option for people to get a tour of the library’s Special Collections department, where we keep all of our rarest materials. We don’t have much in the way of interactive fiction (the IF exhibit currently on display in the library for the summer term comes largely from my personal collection), but many of our other popular culture materials help show the evolution of genres that eventually became interactive. It’s hard to look at a turn-of-the-20th-century children’s story paper without seeing many of the same themes that would populate the Choose Your Own Adventure books a century later. To demonstrate the library’s digitization efforts, we also gave a tour of our scanning lab, where we scanned an issue of “Happy Days” (one of the aforementioned story papers) which is now available online: http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:351596

How did you feel about how VuPop went? What was done well, and what do you think could be improved?

I was extremely pleased with the content of VuPop, and I really enjoyed meeting the various people who attended. My biggest disappointment is simply that we didn’t get as many attendees as I would have hoped – we could have accommodated a great many more. Obviously this is a function of timing and location – an event in the city and/or on the weekend would likely have been a greater draw – but I hope that the online video has allowed a wider audience to enjoy at least some portions of the event.

Anything else that you’d like to add?

As of this writing, you can still watch the afternoon sessions through the “streaming now” link at http://vupop.org, and I’m working to get these videos (plus recordings of the morning) available more permanently somewhere. Stay tuned for more details!

Looking to submit? Now’s the time!

Have you been planning to submit for a while, or just getting the last touches together on your interactive piece? Now is the time to submit! We will be accepting submissions for Vol. 3 through the end of July.

So get your editing caps on, round up the beta-testers, and bring us your submissions.

New Release: Blood & Laurels

 

In case you missed it, Emily Short‘s Blood & Laurels, has recently been released for iPad. Here’s a description from the news release:

“Blood & Laurels is a political thriller set in ancient Rome. Built on the Versu engine, it combines work in advanced character AI by Richard Evans (Sims 3, Black and White) and dialogue modeling by Emily Short (Galatea, Alabaster). Characters respond to the player, remember what he has done, and form relationships with him, allowing the player to deceive, cheat, seduce, plot, or play it straight as he tries to survive the volatile landscape of imperial politics.

With a richly branching storyline and over 240,000 words of interactive content — of which a player is likely to see only about 7% in a given play through — Blood & Laurels has plenty of room to shape its story around the player’s unique choices.”

The platform that built it, Versu, states on its site that it works to bring AI interactions to a higher level in interactive fiction: “Just about everything you can do affects your character’s opinion of the other characters, and theirs of you, altering the playing field for what’s to come.”

Blood & Laurels looks like an exciting new release, and is definitely worth checking out!

Call for Interviews, Young Writers’ Space, 8-Bit Art, and More!

Interested in participating in an interview? Inky Path is reaching out to those in the IF community on everything from their latest projects to heated debates. We would love to have your lovely voices grace this blog. If interested, contact inkypath[AT]gmail.com with the subject line “Interview: [Your Name]” and include a bit about yourself and what you’d like to interview about.

More of a monologist?  We are also accepting blog entries (including previously published material). More on that on our Submissions page.

Are you a young writer? Poetryspace has a great opportunity for you–a Young Writers’ Space dedicated to those 18 and under. According to their submission guidelines, “We welcome stories, poems, jottings, drawings, graphics, cartoons, extracts from your novel. Anything at all!”

Interactive fiction combines games and literature… but what about games and other kinds of art? One artist takes on the challenge of fusing games and art in a series depicting well-known pieces as 8-bit paintings, as seen in this article.

It seems that predicting the future really is possible–for some notable sci-fi authors, that is. The Outlet, Electric Literature’s blog, offers this handy graphic showing where sci-fi authors got it right.

For April Fool’s Day, xkcd offered an interactive comic in which readers can make decisions and even add their own suggestions at the end. It offers xkcd’s classic mix of the funny and the fantastic.

 

Spring Thing, Lit about Games, and Gamebook Fun!

It’s time for voting in the compo world. The Spring Thing IF Competition is now open for voting. Voters have until May 11 to get their votes in, and those wanting to vote must play at least half of the compo’s games to be eligible. There are ten games available, so now is the time for playing IF!

The IF Comp has revamped its site and now looks pretty snazzy. Although the competition isn’t for a while (intent to enter begins July 1) it’s now easier to access the competition results and the compo rules have been revised.

Last time we talked about games about literature; this time we’ve got news on literature about games! Cartridge Lit is a new and wonderful little lit mag showcasing video game literature–which is exactly what it sounds like.  They state, “We believe video games are important and vital to [pop] culture. Why shouldn’t there be a lit mag dedicated to showcasing lit + games? We don’t know why not, either, so, here we are.” They are accepting both lit submissions and informal pieces for their blog, The AirshipMay 5 begins the launch of work online.

Want to check out some great gamebooks? Cubus Games, based in Barcelona, is a developer of branching stories in various different worlds. A current news post states that a game under development, The Sinister Fairground, has over 60 characters. Wow! Be sure to check out their work in the future.

Interview, Game Jams, and Elegies to Dead Worlds

A2Z-BADGE [2014] - Support - smallInky’s got publicity! As part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, Stuart Lloyd has been conducting gamebo0k and interactive fiction interviews for blog Lloyd of Gamebooks

You can find Inky’s interview here: Z is for XYZZY

In submission news, there’s just over one month left before the release of our second volume! That means that now is the time to submit, all  you scribes and storytellers.

Combining games and literature? Who would’ve thought it could be done? Well Dejobaan apparently, because Elegy for a Dead World is described by this PC Gamer article as an “experimental game concept…tales of forgotten civilizations and extinct societies, all filtered though the textual influence of British Romantic poetry.”  Players explore the landscape to learn more about the ancient civilizations that once existed there. 

Speaking of games, the Public Domain Jam is right around the corner. The Jam invites developers to create games based off stories in the public domain. Games should be created between May 17-24 and submitted to the Jam’s webpage, with various criteria for rating.

New Submission Guidelines, Upcoming Interviews, and More!

Now that Inky Path’s first volume is launched it’s time to roll out some big changes.

  • Submission Guidelines — We’re cutting down our guidelines to let you submit your work in the simplest way possible. No more reading through a long list of requirements!
  • Streamlined Editing — We’re improving our editing process to get decisions and comments to author in the quickest way we can.
  • Regular Updates — We’re letting this space become a great location for IF news, musings, and other great content. If you have blog content you want to post/repost here, see the Submissions page for the details.
  • Interviews! — We’re sending out a fresh round of interviews to writers and developers in the IF community. If you might be interested in participating in an interview, drop us a line.

Expect to see some new developments around here in upcoming weeks.

As always, we’re accepting interactive fiction pieces–both new and previously published. Visit the Submissions page for more info.

Guest Blog Post: 10 Second Defence post-mortem — Part 2

10 Second Defence post-mortem. Musings on my first Inform game (continued)

by Christina Nordlander

10 Second Defence can be found here (http://www.ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=o3l8ac72owqdhj66).

 

5. The Process, Reloaded 

(This section contains slight puzzle spoilers.)

LD’s extreme time limit is a cure for perfectionism: whenever you come across a flaw, you can soothe yourself with “well, I only had 48 (or 72) hours”. I hadn’t intended to make a post-compo version, but I got enough positive comments that I felt like I owed it to my players.

Of course, at this point, perfectionism came into full swing. Creating Version 2 took several months. A lot of this time was spent waiting for feedback from my patient beta-testers. It’s at this point I would like to thank them: Adri, Hanon Ondricek, Andrew Schultz, Steven J. Scott, and Streever. Getting the perspective of other people (who lack your own blinkers and foci) is vital, especially given that most of these players had more experience with IF and Inform commands than I did.

Since a principal criticism of the game was that it was too difficult, I went about implementing different solutions to the puzzles, getting a lot closer to the fully interactive, immersive world I wanted when I first made the game. For examples, there are now two different ways to use the capsule with the sleep drug, as opposed to only one possible use in Version 1. On the suggestion of the testers, I also created a GLUE verb, making the use of the glue a lot more intuitive.

6. You Should See the Bits We Had to Take Out

(This section contains major puzzle spoilers.)

Some things I originally planned never ended up in the game, for one reason or other.

If you’ve played it, you’ve probably noticed the biggest one: the PC’s brain implant is a massive red herring. It is the in-story explanation for how the PC can relive the same potentially fatal scenario over and over again: the game is understood to be a simulation created by the implant in order to help the player find the optimal solution to the problem. This is why the death message is “You need to run this again,” not “You have died.”

My original idea was that once the player has reached the successful ending, they would be able to turn off the implant, moving to the “Real Apartment” where they would then replay the scenario for a permanent victory. When I made Version 1, I didn’t have the time or the experience to implement this. During the editing process, I was technically able to implement the idea, but realised that replaying the same scenario twice would be more annoying than enjoyable.

The Real Apartment was supposed to be a messier, more stressful affair without the implant blocking distractions for the PC; full of interfering information. The actual gameplay would probably not be very different, but things that seemed to proceed easily in the simulation might be slower or clumsier.

In the finished product, the implant is pretty much set dressing. Late in the game, I did give it a function as a very primitive hint system: try EXAMINE WEB at various stages of the game, and it will draw your attention to the next area you need to focus on.

More minor puzzles I was thinking of implementing, very early in the creation process, included a risk of slipping on the cleaning fluid when you leave the apartment unless you type JUMP, and a disambiguation between the hallway floor and the living-room floor when you POUR FLUID ON FLOOR. I nixed both of these ideas on the simple principle of not being a dick to the player.

7. Things I Could Have Done Better

(This section contains major puzzle spoilers)

It’s always useful to look back at a work and check what could be done better next time.

Within hindsight, the implant wasn’t necessary: it does explain how the player can carry out the actions within ten seconds, but the only reason I made the time-frame “ten seconds” was to comply with the LD theme. (And I strongly doubt that it is feasible, even with a reaction-enhancing implant.)

I have learnt many simple technical lessons from this work: in the future, I will know how to give objects different states instead of creating separate objects, reducing word count and obviating the need for disambiguation.

Most importantly: I would aim for a less difficult game. I suspect that making overly difficult games is a common temptation for novice game-makers, out of the reasoning that if the player can just breeze through the game, you’ve wasted your time. Of course, there’s also the “reading the author’s mind” problem. I think one of the main mistakes I made was, not to assume that the player would think exactly like me, but that they would think of solutions in the same order. The game would have benefited from some way to narrow the player’s focus.

Another problem with the puzzles is that they involved interacting with certain parts of the scenery (the floor, the walls) that are normally irrelevant to IF games.

 8. Conclusion

I greatly enjoyed making “10 Second Defence,” and I hope that at least some people will enjoy playing it. I will certainly enjoy creating more IF games and improving my Inform skills in the future.