Diary of a 1st-time Interactive Fiction Developer

  • Howdy, pilgrim

    Ultraviolet Grasslands

  • Part One: Intentions

    12th April, 2016


    There are… things out there. To the North. To the East. Maybe they’re things gone wrong – glitches in the otherwise sublime order of nature. Maybe you’re the glitch and they’re here to put you right.

    Your screen is black. All you see is text describing the beginning of your story, an angle bracket and a blinking cursor. What do you do?

    Most people probably have some idea what they would do. They’d type “Take out sword” or “Look” or maybe just some variation on “Run away”. Some might not know. Others are nodding but haven’t actually been paying attention and are hoping to figure out what’s happening as we go along. That’s ok. Those people will go far. Pretending to understand is a valuable skill in any role in life. I hope. For the sake of this diary.

    For the 2nd and 3rd groups, I’m describing a work of interactive fiction – games like Zork, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the intricate Lovecraftian horror Anchorhead that are sometimes called text adventures. In most interactive fiction, the world is mainly depicted with text and players interact with it by typing commands like “Look”, “Use” or (if they’re the same person I was as a 13-year-old child) “Poo on”. More recently, choice-based games have come to the fore, like AAA-killer 80 Days or Channel 4 News’s Two Billion Miles, which allow interaction through hyperlinks and responses chosen from a list.

    I’m going to make one of these games.

    I genuinely have no idea where to start.

    My plan is to record the process of writing my first piece of interactive fiction in this bi-weekly (or so) series of diary entries, documenting my problems, failures and (potentially) successes. If I fail completely, the diaries should at least help other newbies avoid some of the pitfalls and give everyone else something to publicly laugh at.

    I’ve never made any kind of game before, and I don’t know much of anything about what’s involved in writing a work of interactive fiction. The only advice I have had so far has come from Megan Condis, skilled word-shaper at Unwinnable and coordinator of the Technical Writing Minor at Stephen F. Austin State University, which more or less amounted to telling me to calm down and eat a cookie. (First-rate advice, useful in any situation).

    My only aim is to produce something that doesn’t (a) break your browser or (b) make you vomit any faith you had that there was goodness in this world out through your eyeballs.

    The last time I tried starting a diary, my next door neighbor found it and showed it to the girl I fancied in my class. Let’s hope this one works out a bit better.


    Declan Taggart doesn’t know what he’s doing. Please, help him. Get in touch on Twitter @NonsenseThunder and put him right, whether that’s with making this game or just generally in life. He needs you. Don’t let him down.