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Interactive Fiction Group

Interactive Fiction Group

At Access Space several people have expressed an interest in interactive fiction, so we thought we'd set up an interactive fiction group. We're hoping that here we can get together some web resources to help with authoring. Then we can have some meetings and/or hack sessions to get some text adventures working.


There are lots of frameworks for developing interactive fiction. The problem is that many of them are really hard, so you have to be into programming before you can get started. There are also a bunch of systems which used to be heavily used, but aren't currently in development.

It should be our policy to standardise what system we use, so we can all learn from each other. We could even develop rooms in a single adventure, which we could then paste together into a “House of fun” or something.

We've currently opted to use and advocate the ALAN3 language.


  • It's easy to download and install.
  • It works on Linux, Windows, MacOS and more.
  • The learning curve is quite shallow, so it's easy for programming beginners to get into.
  • It's very powerful and can describe lots of possibilities.
  • It's object-orientated, so you can get lots of extra features (like pre-defined actions and consequences) as add-ons (called libraries). We can also make our own and share them.
  • Most new languages are object-orientated, so it'll help you learn general programming skills.
  • It's currently being actively developed.



  • The third IFgroup meeting was held on Tuesday, 19th February.
  • The weather was lousy, and just three of us turned up, and showed some of the ideas we've been working on.
  • We looked into a full install of alan, arun and gargoyle onto a computer, so we can run the tools globally, without the need to save them in our home directories. This proved to be reasonably straightforward. We should document this!


  • The second meeting was held on Tuesday, 15th January. James, Kate, Harriet, Steve and Scott all took part. The session was really productive.
    • James gave an introductory guide to how to make a minimal IF story.
    • Harriet demonstrated the way she's embedded graphics into her alien hunt, which can be seen using gargoyle.
    • Kate and Steve started working on their own IF stories, and got familiar with the development workflow.
    • Scott and Harriet succeeded in embedding sound into an IF story.


  • James has been looking into ALAN3 more, and working on an interactive game. He's cracked random placement of objects.
  • Harriet's been working on an “alien hunt” in a spaceship. While doing this she identified a bug in ALAN3 which meant you couldn't take off items you'd put on. She emailed the developers and they provided a fix. (Details below.)
    • I now have a working conversation. However, the topics of conversation have to be physical things that exist in the world. I would like help with changing this so I don't have to make a huge list of objects. The alien can be taught to respond to topics differently after being given more information.
    • I now have a random starting location for both hero and alien, and an alien that constantly randomly moves around. The game will alert you if the alien is nearby.
    • I now have a scripted pattern of movement for the alien. I have also been experimenting with some maths to make a simple combat sequence between the hero and the alien.
  • Steve's downloaded ALAN3 and started experimenting.
  • James has created a poster, this wiki page, and set up an email address for enquiries:
  • James has noted that the “ALAN3 IDE” (Integrated Development Environment) .zip files on seem to be corrupt. He's contacted the developers.

Next Meeting (TBC)

We've been a bit slack since the Spring, and we haven't met up.

  • It seems that a principal problem is distributing our interactive fiction. While we are prepared to invest the few minutes it requires to install ALAN3, IF readers (or players) may not be. They just need to see it working right away.
  • There is no portable arun interpreter that you can simply paste into a web page - and (I've talked with the developers) there's not likely to be one in the near future. If you know of any Java programming experts who have SEVERAL WEEKS to devote to this, please, get in touch!
  • The simplest alternative way to do this would be to install the arun binaries as a CGI script on a web server, so that people could play our IFs through a web interface. There's been some discussion on the IF mailing list, and it is possible and has been done.

* I suggest that we recruit some web server experts to help us get this up and running, and that this be the focus of the next meeting, date TBC. What do you think?

Code Snippets

  • To fix the standard library so that the hero can undress, or take off clothing items, edit invent.i so that line 35 reads:
  • James just made a new verb which allows you to “break”, “rip”, “tear”, “smash” and otherwise damage items. It's based on eat.i and looks like this. To work it, you need to specify that an object IS BRAKEABLE. and you need to IMPORT 'break.i'. at the start of your IF source code.
  • Doan made a new verb as well, called surrender.i. It can be found here. It causes some problems with the use of the word 'food' in adventures so you may want to change the name of the object 'food'.
  • Items will be listed in the inventory as 'a _'. If you want it to list something as 'an _', 'some _', 'the _' etc., add it in the name and list it as an article.

for example

the orange isa  object
name an orange
the food isa object
name some food

This is explained better in pages 85 and 86 of the Alan manual.

  • To make an event loop, you can cause the event to trigger itself.

For example:

event dotexplode

"The yellow dot mysteriously explodes and reassembles itself."

schedule dotexplode after 5.

end event.

Will make the yellow dot explode every five steps.



  • The source of Doan's spaceship alien hunt, for educational purposes.
    • This requires some modifications to hero.i and talk.i, and includes surrender.i. Remember that when you use a new .i file you need to mention it in std.i as well.


In a general spirit of share and share alike, if you have a cool idea for an IF project why not summarise it here?

  • Call-Centre Warriors - Ever get the feeling that the person on the other end of the phone is just reading off a pre-prepared script? How about making a game where you try to sell stuff to people by phone, or try to get telesales people to stop calling you?
  • Disability blues - How about a story in which you're a profoundly disabled person and you can't do most actions. Can you escape from your room and meet real people rather than patronising carers?
  • Deathtrap Dungeon - What about a puzzle-type game in which you have to escape from a cell that's filling with water, while the walls are crushing together, and a giant lethal pendulum is coming down from the ceiling? (You get the idea).
  • Acid Trip - Who says stories have to be coherent? How about a storyline which is disjointed and disorientating?
  • Doan exhibition - I would like to develop an interactive 'tour' of a Doan exhibition I am planning to hold. It will include pictures from Doan episodes and adventures into the world of Doan. Pictures can be included in an ALAN adventure using the Gargoyle interface.
  • Virtual Access Space - What about an IF version of Access Space populated with people and things? It could either be genuinely educational, or absurd (and it'd be a great opportunity to create satirical versions of Spacers to interact with!^_^)
  • meta-adventure A text adventure in which you can build the next step in the adventure by answering a series of questions about what you want to appear in the next room etc.

Here's the poster for the first IF Group meeting, scheduled for 5pm at Access Space on Tuesday, December 11th.

IF Group 11th December

Following some really positive responses :-) to the first IF Group poster (everyone liked Alice!) I made a logo, and a plain logo that you could paste into your own images. I've tried to make the images feel more “quirky literature” than “spacemen and trolls”.

IF Group first poster IF Group logo IF Group plain logo

IF Links

  • Gargoyle - A graphical interface for Alan on Linux
  • The latest incarnation of the original, old-school 1970's text adventure “Colossal Cave” is available here. It's available as a self-contained executable, and looks quite unsophisticated now. It's funny, though!
if/interactive_fiction_group.txt · Last modified: 2008/09/11 10:55 by james
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